Wonderful Counselor

Isaiah 9:1-7 NIV, 

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Prayer: Lord God, shine your light upon us, O God, as we seek to be enlightened. By your Spirit, open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts as we prepare for the coming of your Son. Amen

  1. Today is the beginning of Advent. For many Christians unfamiliar with the liturgical year, there may be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season.
    1. Some people may know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent.
  2. In the early Christian centuries, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany (the recognition of who Jesus was – the Son of God. This came through the visitation to the baby Jesus was the visit of the Magi, and later to his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1).
  3. During this Advent season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in repentance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
  4. By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.
    1. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
  5. Today, the season of Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas – starting today December 1st.
  6. The church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people.
  7. This morning’s Scripture comes from the book of Isaiah.
    1. Isaiah is one of the primary scriptures that is considered to announce the coming of Jesus. Isaiah is often referred to as “The Messianic Prophet”, because of his many prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus. 
    1. The New Testament quotes and applies more scriptures from the book of Isaiah than any other Old Testament prophet.
  8. More relevant background: Isaiah was God’s spokesman to Judah and Jerusalem at time when the nation was immersed in sin. 
    1. Like most prophets, Isaiah spoke of God’s indictment against their sins, urging them to repent.  He then foretold destruction upon them if they did not return to God.
    1. Isaiah speaks to us today – to each of us: we live in a time when many people find it hard to trust our elected officials and our leaders; cynicism abounds, uncertainty about the future is commonplace, corruption is real, racial and religious bias seems normal, and money, more often than not, money carries more influence than high ideals.
    1. Many people think that we as a nation are slipping down towards more discord and separation. Social media allows instant sharing of ideas, thoughts and misinformation. We are a modern version of Judea and Jerusalem of more than 2000 years ago. It seems that as humans we are prone to repeat history.
    1. Isaiah is speaking to the darkness that envelopes his country.
  9. This morning let us listen carefully to Isaiah and see how we can react to his prophecy for change and hope.
  10. In the midst of these dire warnings, Isaiah also foretold of a bright future ahead with the coming Messiah. 
    1. God would not forget His covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. 
    1. God would spare a remnant of the nation of Israel out of which would come the Messiah and His new kingdom.
  11. Isaiah 9:6 is the background for this series of messages throughout the Advent season.
    1. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  12. I believe that God intends that we experience all that Jesus came to be in our lives. So, for the next four Advent weeks, we are going to consider each of these descriptions in turn. We will be focused, for this study on Isaiah, so we can hear how these words speak to us in the time of personal and national crisis.  
  13. Here is an interesting story – that helps to center each of us into what this story can teach us about Advent and the theme of the ‘Names of the Messiah”
    1. The story is told of a soldier who served in the Union army during the Civil War.  He was a young man who had lost his older brother and father in the war.  His mother sent him a letter pleading with him to come home and help her and his sister take care of the farm.
    1. The young man was granted a furlough and went to Washington, D.C. to plead his case to the president.  When he arrived at the White House he asked to see the president.  He was told in no uncertain terms, “You can not see the president!  Don’t you know there’s a war on?  The president is a very busy man.  Now go away!”
    1. The young man left very disheartened.  He went to a nearby park and sat down on a bench and tried to figure out what to say to his mother.  It was then that a young boy walked up to him and said, “Soldier, you look unhappy.  What’s wrong?”  The soldier looked at this young boy and he began to spill his heart out to him.  He told him about his father and brother dying in the war and how his mother needed him back on the farm.
    1. The little boy took the soldier by the hand and led him around to the back of the White House.  They went through the back door, past the guards, past all the generals and the high-ranking government officials until they got to the oval office, the president’s office itself.  The little boy didn’t even knock but just opened it and walked in.  There was President Lincoln with his secretary of state, looking over battle plans on the desk.  President Lincoln looked up and said, “What can I do for you, Todd?”  And Todd said, “Daddy, this soldier needs to talk to you.”  Right then and there the young man was able to plead his case.
  14. This why Jesus is a wonder of a counselor.  He is our advocate.  He has the ear of God himself.
  15. We ask ourselves, where do we find our ultimate hope for whatever our crisis is?
    1. We find that hope in Christ.
    1. We find our hope in crisis in that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor the midst of our crisis.
    1. We find our hope in that Jesus is the Mighty God for our crisis.
    1. We find our hope in that Jesus is our Everlasting Father in the crisis.
  16. All others may fail us, but the Eternal Father will not fail us. And, until the crisis is over, He will be the Prince of Peace.
  17. Today we will focus on “Wonderful Counselor.”
  18. Play a short part of Handel’s Messiah.   Remember this?
  19. The first designation is “Wonderful Counselor.” Now, perhaps a word is in order about the putting together of the words Wonderful and Counselor. The King James Bible places a comma separating the two words, thus leading some to see these as separate titles.
    1. I believe that the words should be taken together as are all the other phrases in this verse.
  20. Wonderful Counselor. Wonderful is a word we use a lot at Christmas time. “It’s A Wonderful Life” will doubtless air for the thousandth time. “The most wonderful time of the year” will play in every cafe in the land. On the radio this week I heard a hardware store that has, “A wonder-inducing array of Christmas trees for sale.” Wonder.
  21. And then there’s the word, Counselor. Wonderful Counselor.
    1. And now let’s be honest, after all the money is spent for Christmas and to much food has been eaten and the relatives and in-laws have pressed all your buttons about religion and the current impeachment issues, counselor is a word that may be on the lips of many of us by the time Christmas is over!
  22. So Wonderful Counselor – isn’t there a little bit of tension when you put those two terms together?
  23. Wonderful sounds delightful; Counselor is what we need in a time of  crisis.
    1. So, given how we tend to use those words, what should we make of this first title given to the Christ Child in chapter 9 verse 6, Wonderful Counselor?
  24. Many times, when we read Scripture, we fail to look what came before the Scripture.
    1. Back in chapter 8, Isaiah pronounces some rather dire predictions of coming suffering for the people of God. “They will look to the earth,” Isaiah says, “but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish, and they will be thrust into thick darkness.” Aren’t we hearing this now – by both parties?
  25. Take a look at the Scripture that is printed in your bulletin.
    1. It is not a happy picture. Chapter 9 opens and it’s like the sun coming up. There’s a message of coming hope, bright and clear. Notice the contrast. Verse 2, light instead of darkness –
    1. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
    1. Verse 3, joy instead of sorrow – “You have multiplied the nations; you have increased its joy. They rejoice before you as with joy after the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.”
      1. Light instead of darkness; joy instead of sorrow.
  26. And it’s a message, if you’ll notice, all of it entirely focused on the birth of a baby. Verse 6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders.”
    1. You’ll remember that Matthew’s gospel, chapter 4, verses 15 and 16 quote these verses as being fulfilled with the birth of Mary’s boy; the child laid in a manger in Bethlehem, with the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the child whose birth is the pivot point for those who were in darkness to see the great light; for those who were in anguish to now be full of joy; for those who were in bondage to be set free at last.
  27. Let’s take a little deeper look at “Wonderful Counselor” – two parts of a name.
  28. Wonderful
    1. A thing is wonderful because it inspires in us a sense of wonder, like the wonder-inducing array of Christmas trees in the display at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster.
    1. In the Old Testament account in Isaiah, this word means something more like miraculous or supernatural.
    1. Like the Exodus is a miraculous intervention of God is a wonder to the Israelites as the Red Sea was parted
  29. Isaiah points to Jesus. As Isaiah tells us, a child who was born. He is a real man, a real human being, and yet more.
    1. He was supernaturally conceived and born of the virgin Mary; filled with the Spirit without measure.
    1. Jesus merely spoke and He calmed the storm and healed the sick and gave sight to the blind and the dead were raised to life.
    1. Only Jesus can take us in our darkness and chase the shadows away.
    1. Only Jesus can meet us in our sorrows and wipe away every tear from our eyes. Jesus is the great Wonder.
  30. Counselor
  31. And then look at the next word in this first title. He is the Wonderful Counselor. A counselor is our advocate, helper, guide and supporter.
    1. This counselor is with us – through the movement of the Holy Spirit.
    1. The Spirit helps to steer us in the right direction and to ease our pain. There is a peace that comes over us as the Spirit— Counselor guides us.
  32. I wonder if today we have seen the great Light that Isaiah describes.
    1. We can only find it in one place.
    1. You find it in the Son who is given, the child who was born.
    1. You find it in the Wonderful Counselor.
    1. You find it in Jesus Christ.
  33. Please look to Jesus, to cast your gaze upon Him, to turn and cry out to Him.
  34. There is a Wonderful Counselor who will guide our steps and He will keep you to the end. You can trust Him.
  35. Thanks be to God.
  36. Let’s pray: Our God, thank You for the Wonderful Counselor, Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to look to Him, for we ask it in His name, amen