Wonderful Counselor - Isaiah 9:6 - Part 1
by Chuck Jones
Authors note: I was asked a question about Isaiah 9:6 by a faithful church member. He wanted to know what these names tell us about who Jesus is. My first intention was to give a sermon on the whole verse and move on to another topic. That plan was changed as I began to study the text. It became apparent that more than one study was needed. These four articles are the fruit of my study.
Let me lay a little background for Isaiah 9:1-7. The first five verses paint a picture of distress and oppression. The people are described as walking in darkness and having a great light shine on them (vs. 2). As a result of that light, the nation’s joy has increased and they rejoice before God (vs. 3). The burden they once lived under is broken (vs. 4), and the implements of war have been burned (vs. 5).
These verses imply the time of the end. They point to the final deliverance of Israel, not principally to the birth of Christ. Verse six carries the good news that a child would be born who would receive the government and be given a name by the people. The names in verse six are the people’s assessment of him.
Verse 7 is definitely pointing to the future as it says, “from that time forward, even forever.” With this background in place, let’s go to the name that this child will be called. The title “wonderful counselor” can be understood as two separate names or combined as one. It depends on a small mark in the Hebrew language. I’ll take them separately and combined.
The Hebrew word here translated wonderful is an adjective, a description of a person or thing. “In the Old Testament it refers to things that are unusual, beyond human capabilities, and as such awakens astonishment” (TWOT, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). We use the word “wonderful” in the same way. We say that things, people, panoramic views, or sunsets are wonderful.
In scripture we see that it is used in much the same way. “Your testimonies are wonderful [beyond human understanding] therefore my soul keeps them” (Psalm 119:129). Here the adjective, “wonderful,” is describing the testimonies of God. Those wonderful testimonies, when kept, have a “wonderful” outcome. “I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:100).
This takes us to the son who would be the king. Jesus did many things that caused people to be filled with wonder and amazement. Here are a couple of examples:
Luke 8:25 “But He said to them, Where is your faith? And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, "Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”
Matthew 7:28, 29 “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
In all that Jesus did he was (and remains) wonderful. It’s more than just in counsel. When you see Jesus, if you are able to speak, you may hear yourself say, “You are Wonderful.”
This is a term which is applied to one who gives counsel. The word in itself does not distinguish between good and bad advice, just that advice is given. You have probably received both types and after the fact found out which type it was. How can you know before? Where does good counsel come from?
The short answer is that it comes from God’s mind and heart. We are told, “By pride comes nothing but strife. But with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:16). What a powerful verse! It speaks of both good and bad counsel.