Isaiah 9:6 (Advent Midweek Service)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 4, 2013
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
He was promised to us first at the time of the Fall into sin. To the devil, that ancient snake, the Lord God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen. 3:15) The promise was continued by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Old Testament patriarchs—through Abraham’s seed, THE descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would provide the eternal blessing of God’s forgiveness to all the families of the earth. (Gen. 12; Gal. 3:29) To King David God continued the promise, “I will raise up your seed after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish His kingdom. . . . and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam. 7) Isaiah the prophet said He would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel because He would be God-with-us. So who is this child born to us, given by God to us? Who is this Immanuel who we know as Jesus?
Our Advent theme this year looks at the description of God’s promised Messiah-Savior, Jesus, from His Word in Isaiah 9:6. The Birth of this child in history is a gift of God to us. He is a King, a Ruler, a Sovereign. His government is the kingdom of grace, but also in the widest extent the kingdom of nature and power. All the world is subject to Him, and yet, the government of this Child is a spiritual rule, all the more embracing and world-wide, because His kingdom is not of this world. Who is this Child, Jesus, born of virgin, born in a Bethlehem manger who is identified as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace? These are the names that are descriptive of God’s gift to us, this Child, Jesus. And now we start to explore what the Word of God shares with us about Him born to be our Savior—God-with-Us—Jesus Christ. Tonight: Wonderful Counselor.
Isaiah begins, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to describe the Messiah-Savior whom God would gift to us as a Child, born of a virgin. He calls Himפֶּ֫לֶא (pele’), “Wonder.” Not merely is the Messiah wonderful but He is Himself a Wonder, through and through. This word designates the Messiah not merely as someone extraordinary, but as someone who in His very person and being is a Wonder. He is that which surpasses human thought and power. Indeed, He is God Himself. To designate this Child with the word פֶּ֫לֶא Wonder, is to make the clearest confirmation of His deity—God-with-us in flesh.
Martin Luther would say, “The mystery of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.” Jesus is true God in human flesh in His incarnation and that is a wonder! “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” (Rom. 11) Who could have imagined that God would lower Himself to such a standard in order to save sinful humanity from everlasting death and destruction in hell? Who could have fathomed that God would send His only Son to be born among us in order that He might suffer with us and then suffer and die for us so that we might receive through His shed blood the very gift of forgiveness and life? This is a wonder, beyond our knowing and comprehending. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life? Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would have involved turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh: all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it. What would you have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man—a real man of particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”
To us a child is born, to us a son is given—such a wonder that Immanuel comes to suffer and to save! And so we are brought head on with God Himself as we hear the name of the Child. This Child, Jesus, who is born for us is Wonder—the God-Man who suffers and dies, who forgives and redeems, who defeats death by His resurrection, guaranteeing that we, too, will rise again. Jesus, Wonder indeed!
But He is more than Wonder only. He is Counselor of Wonder, or Wonderful Counselor. Remember, this Child of promise would sit upon the throne of David as the Messianic King. To do so requires wisdom such as no mere person possesses. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” we heard in our Epistle. In this Child, this King of kings, is hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, for He must be properly equipped to redeem His people and to rule over them in love and mercy and grace. Isaiah in chapter 11 tells us that, “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” rests upon Him. (Isaiah 11:2) Micah 4:9 links closely the fact that wisdom and the ability to give counsel are necessary for a king. So as king, Jesus has no need to be surrounded with counsellors and advisors as in the case of human rulers. He is Himself Counselor because He Himself is God as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:24, “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom [the counsel] of God.”
Who, then, is this Child born for us? Who is this gift of God to us, Jesus the Messiah? He is Immanuel. He is God-with-us in human flesh. He is divine Wonder. He is divine Wisdom and Counsel. He is all these things and yet, He set aside their glory to live with us. He chose not always or fully to use His divine powers of wonder and counsel, humbling Himself to perfect obedience to the heavenly Father. The Wonderful Counselor took up the cross and bore the weight of our sins into death and the grave so that we might be forgiven and live eternally with Him. Such love, such grace, such mercy! That is this Child of promise. Amen.