Here we are, once again... the start of another Advent Season. A season of waiting, anticipating... and preparing our hearts for the celebration of the birth of the Messiah. It’s not yet Christmas... in fact, we’re not even in the Christmas season! It’s the world that rushes the secular yuletide season, not the Church.
During Advent we’re expecting Christmas... we’re looking forward to the coming Christmas season, as our first Advent candle reminds us, in hope - with the assurance that God always keeps his promises.
When Isaiah proclaimed his prophecy of the coming of the “Wonderful Counselor”, he was calling Israel (calling God’s people) to remember the hope filled assurance that the Messiah was indeed coming; coming to establish His Kingdom (Isaiah 9:7), God’s perfect Kingdom.
Of course, Isaiah offered this prophecy nearly 800 years before Christ was even born. To put that into perspective, 800 years ago the ‘printing press’ was yet to be invented... North and South American continents had not yet been discovered. The Protestant Reformation had NOT yet taken place. In fact, John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther were yet to be born. The Presbyterian Church didn’t exist, and electricity, as we know it today, was only discovered 270 years ago. All that to say, 800 years was, and is, a very long time... especially when you’re waiting for something.
And we have trouble waiting for Christmas. Which at this point is only 27 days away.
Of course, Isaiah’s day, was NOT unlike our own. It was a time of crisis... a period of history that was tumultuous! It was a time of “war and rumor of war” as the Assyrians were on the march, taking people into captivity in droves.
Isaiah’s prophecy gave the people of God hope... a hope filled assurance they so desperately needed: the day was coming - not yet - but over the horizon... when a Child would be born, who would become the One who’d fulfill God’s Covenant, God’s promise to David, and this Child would bear the titles “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The Child was Christ; and you and I are still living in the fulfillment of this prophecy. It’s was partially fulfilled 2000 years ago, when Angels and Shepherd’s proclaimed Christ’s birth. But the prophecy will reach its consummation at Christ’s second coming, his return... when “every valley will be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low... and all flesh shall see it, together! For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Again... just like Christmas... it’s coming, we can sense it... we can see the signs all around us. In fact, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But not yet.
Of course, by calling the Messiah “Wonderful Counselor” Isaiah is telling us something of God’s character. The word “wonderful” in our scripture literally means “incomprehensible.” The Messiah causes us to be filled with awestruck wonder. The word is much weightier than the way it’s used in normal conversation today—we say things are “wonderful” if they are pleasant, lovely, or the least bit likable... you know, we say things like “that eggplant Parmesan was wonderful” - when that’s not at all what we meant! We simply meant it was good! I’ve never met an eggplant that I was “filled with wonder” over, or awestruck by, have you?
But Jesus... well Jesus is wonderful in a way that boggles the mind. The same word for “wonderful” is used in Judges 13:18 when Manoah, Samson’s father, asked the LORD (in a theophany) what His name was. The angel of the LORD responded, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” In other words, “Why do you ask my name, since it is beyond your understanding?” It is incomprehensible.
Jesus proved his incomprehensible wonder: beginning with His conception in the womb of a virgin (Matthew 1:23). He showed He is the “wonderful” One in His power to heal (Matthew 4:23), His amazing ability to teach as one with authority, (Mark 1:22), His perfect, sin-less life (Hebrews 4:15), and His resurrection from the dead (Mark 16:6).
Jesus’ teaching were certainly “filled with wonder” and frankly counterintuitive, boggling the mind: “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). “Rejoice and be glad” in persecution (Matthew 5:11–12). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Jesus’ kind of wonderful is awe-inspiring and superior to any other kind, for He is perfect in every way (Matthew 5:48).
The second part of the Messiah’s title is the word counselor. In ancient Israel, a counselor was someone who was wise and respected. Someone “sought-out” and “turned-to” for guidance and leadership.
Of course, most often, such a counselor was portrayed as a wise king, such as Solomon, giving guidance to his people (1 Kings 4:34; Micah 4:9). Isaiah uses this word again in Chapter 28:29 to describe the LORD, saying he is: “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”
Jesus is a wise counselor. “He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person” (John 2:25). He is able to advise His people thoroughly because He is qualified in ways no human counselor is. In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), including the knowledge of all human nature (Psalm 139:1–2).
Which is to say: our Wonderful Counselor... Jesus... always knows what we are going through, and He always knows the right, and good, and best. (Hebrews 4:15–16).
We can trust our Wonderful Counselor to listen to our problems and guide us in the right direction (Proverbs 3:6).
We can be sure our Wonderful Counselor is listening because He told us to pray to Him about our worries (Philippians 4:6; James 1:5).
We can be certain our Wonderful Counselor has our best interests at heart because He loves us (1 John 4:19). And His love is so wide and deep (and filled with wonder) that we cannot fully understand it (Romans 5:8). It’s incomprehensible.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”