I am turning my attention away from blogging for the next few days. Here is some homiletical content for our readers to ignore!
Deism became an immensely popular idea during the 1700s in Colonial America, an idea held among some of our Founding Fathers. They believed that God made the world but that he stepped back and let it work on its own without intervening or interfering. The God of Deism is disconnected and uninvolved with the affairs of this world. That is not the God we worship. He is active, involved, sovereign, and at work in this world to accomplish his will. Isaiah 9:6 and the story of Christmas gives us glimpses into how God acts and intervenes.
When men attempt to intervene and affect the outcome of world events, they generally do so by gathering an army to back them in their plans, or by promoting an idea that they believe will change the world, or by investing money, or in some other way by seeking power. But that is not how our God intervened. When our God was ready to change the world he did something unusual. God did not send an army of angels into the world to gain power conquer mankind. He did not release a new idea to impress theologians and academics and thus gain a foothold among the intelligentsia. He did not infuse money into the world to satisfy human needs and thus change the world. He did not stand for election or maneuver for political power to stand supreme in world affairs. God had a completely different answer.
He sent a baby. A sweet, cute little baby, born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, attended by shepherds and ignored by almost everyone else. But that baby was not like any other. He was God incarnate, the Son of God in a human body, destined to carry the government of the world on his shoulders and be the Savior of mankind. God did not send an army, but the Baby would one day lead an army to strike down all the enemies of God and stand supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords. God did not send an idea or a theological truth but all the fullness of the Godhead was wrapped up in the Baby and through him, God would conform our thoughts to his and renew our minds. God did not send us money but in the Baby, he gave us all the riches of his grace and eternal treasure that cannot be measured by any financial metric. He did not send a politician but the government would rest upon the Baby’s shoulders and his name would be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Each of these names carries a noun – a name of Christ – and an adjective – a modifier that explains the name of Christ. He is a counselor who is wonderful. He is our God who is mighty. He is a Father who is everlasting. He is a Prince who brings peace. And because he is these things, the government will rest on his shoulders and will increase and there will be peace and his kingdom will never end. This unique baby will become the ruler of a never-ending kingdom. That is the message of Isaiah 9:6.
It may be best to study this name in the opposite order that the words the appear. We will examine first the name itself, Counselor, and then examine the modifier that explains the name, Wonderful.
1. The Baby Is a COUNSELOR
The root of this Hebrew word is not mysterious. It means “one who gives advice or counsel.” It is used most often of someone who gives advice or counsel to a king or a general – a trusted advisor.
When we think of this word, counselor, we picture someone on a couch and someone asking, “How did that make you feel?” We are used to counselors who help us sort through our feelings and work out our anxieties, but don’t really help us achieve much else. That is not the meaning of this word. The counselor here helps a king or a general devise a strategy for success in battle – a war advisor. He guides the person through to victory.
The most common use of the term can be seen in 2 Samuel 17:15.
Hushai then told the priests Zadok and Abiathar, “This is what Ahithophel advised Absalom and the elders of Israel, and this is what I advised.”
In 1 Kings 12:8 and 13, Rehoboam rejects the wise advice of the older counselors and listens to the foolish advice of his younger friends. 1 Chronicles 27:32 speaks of David’s uncle Jonathan as a “a counselor; he was a man of understanding and a scribe.” The importance of wise counselors is seen in Proverbs 11:14 and 24:6.
Prov. 11:14 Without guidance, a people will fall,
but with many counselors there is deliverance.
Prov 24:6 for you should wage war with sound guidance—
victory comes with many counselors.
From all of these we see the core usage of the term. Counselor. One who advises, gives direction. But this is no mere psychoanalytical counselor. This counselor guides the person through to victory, to wisdom, to the way of God (if the counselor is a good one, of course).
We have a counselor, a guide, one who steers us to success. No, we are not speaking of the kind of success the prosperity theologians speak of, but success in the ways of God and things of the kingdom. God does not leave us alone to find our way in his kingdom, but sends us a counselor to lead us, guide us, and see us through to spiritual success.
The Counselor’s Path of Success
How does our Counselor lead us to success? Jesus did not come simply to help us feel better about ourselves or to guide us to “self-realization.” The Christ of therapeutic Christianity is not the one revealed in Scripture. Our counselor has a higher purpose. To understand the Christmas story we must sometimes understand some ugly truths.
This world is not a place of goodness and light and human beings are not naturally good. Yes, we are made in the image of God with innate nobility, intelligent and infinite worth. But we are born on the wrong side of a great cosmic struggle between the forces of light and the armies of darkness. From that nascent moment in eternity past when a worshiping angel decided to ascend to the throne and be like the Most High, to that awful time when that angel whispered to the first humans in the Garden and they chose to rebel against God’s love and eat the forbidden fruit, a state of war has existed between God and man. God demands to be obeyed and worshiped and humanity has chosen to stand in rebellion. “I will serve myself and do as I please.” These are not innocent words of self-assertion, but a declaration of war against a holy God.
We live in a world of war. Satan walks about on this earth to and fro seeking whom he may devour. He has sown this world with lies and blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the truth. Paul described him as the god of this age because the people of this world have chosen to listen to his lies rather than worship the Creator God.
Each of us is born on the side of darkness in spite of being Divine image-bearers. Fallen. Broken. Noble. Yet our minds are captured by Satan’s lies, our hearts and enthralled with sin, and our wills are enslaved to the rebellion that Adam and Eve started. When we are redeemed, we the Baby of Christmas saves us from our sins, we switch sides in the great cosmic battle. We leave the army of darkness and join the forces of light.
And that is when the trouble starts. The day I was saved, at age 6, I suddenly gained 3 enemies I didn’t have the day before. I renounced Satan’s lies and became his enemy and a target of his temptations. The accuser of the brethren would suddenly become the accuser of Dave! The tempter of the beloved of God would suddenly begin training his deceits on me. I would find that I lived in a world that was devoted to ideas that ran counter to the truths upon which the kingdom of God was founded. This world is not my home and I live in it, representing the interests of my true kingdom – that of God. Worst of all, my greatest enemy lives inside me. Even if Satan left me along completely and I was on a desert island my flesh would betray me and draw me toward the darkness.
And so, I need a counselor, an advisor. I need someone to show me how to live victoriously over my own flesh, in this sinful world, against the schemes and lies of the Evil One. God has given me, in the Baby of Christmas, just such a Counselor. And he is not just any old counselor.
2. The Baby is a WONDERFUL Counselor
The word wonderful, like counselor, is not a complicated word. It means, “of an extraordinary nature, causing a feeling of intense amazement.” When we call the Baby a Wonderful Counselor, we are saying that he is a counselor who guides us in such a way we are left astounded and amazed.
God’s work in our lives is astounding and amazing. God works powerfully to show himself to his people. In Isaiah 29, God is frustrated with his sinful people and says, in verse 14,
Isaiah 29:14; Therefore, I will again confound these people
with wonder after wonder.
In Moses’ song of praise after the Red Sea parted, in Exodus 15, Moses expounded the greatness of God. His glorious holiness sets him apart from other gods, as does the fact that he performs “wonders” and is therefore revered with praise.
Ex 15:11 Lord, who is like you among the gods?
Who is like you, glorious in holiness,
revered with praises, performing wonders?
In Isaiah 9:6, it is the Baby, the Son of God, who is our Wonder-worker. He guides us through the great spiritual war in which we are all engaged in such a powerful and successful way that we are left stunned and in awe. Sinful, failed, flawed people such as you and I can walk in victory over our own fleshly desires, can walk in holiness in an impure world, and can realize that greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.
How does the Baby in the manger give us victory in our battles day by day? The Baby was born as God in a human body and lived the life none of us could live. He was sinless and perfect from the moment of his birth until he hung on the Cross and breathed his life. Because of his sinlessness, he was able to offer himself as the payment for the sins of the world – your sins and mine. He died, the just for the unjust, bearing our sins in his body on the tree, that we might be made righteous. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.
Having died for our sins, Jesus was buried and rose again on the third day, showing that God accepted his sacrifice for our sins. Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. I was plunged within the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins and as a sinner, I lost all my guilty stains. Jesus rose up as the One to whom every knee would bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord of all.
But there is more to the story than that. Acts 1 tells us that Jesus ascended to heaven and promised that the Holy Spirit would come and empower the disciples to be witnesses to the end of the earth. Jesus had already spoken at length of the Holy Spirit in his Farewell sermon the night before he died. He spoke of the Holy Spirit as “Another Counselor” who would come when he left. Look at what he said.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would not just be with them, as Jesus had been, but he would actually come to dwell in them. He “will be in you.” John 14:26 says that he would remind them of all the things Jesus had told them, inspiring the word and illuminating it, and John 15:26 told them that the Spirit would testify to them about Jesus. But the strongest statement is in John 16:7-11, where Jesus says the most amazing thing, that it is better for us to have the Spirit in us than to have Jesus with us.
Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. John 16:7-11
Jesus is not sitting up in heaven hoping we make it through life. He sent his Holy Spirit to be “Another Counselor” – to be the Spirit of Christ within us. God leaves us stunned by sending his own Spirit to dwell within us and change us from the inside out.
You are not alone in your great spiritual battle. If Jesus redeemed you he also has become your Wonderful Counselor. He has sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within you to guide you through the lies of Satan, through the pressures of this world, and through the power of sin in your own flesh. With the Spirit working inside you, you can overcome!