Isaiah 9:6a

Sermon preached on December 17, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

A couple of months ago Marg and I watched a British mystery on TV and at the end of it they had an interview with the lead actress. She talked about preparing for the role and how she met with a real policewoman to get some pointers on how a real police person would behave. One of the things that the policewoman told her was to never fold her arms because folding your arms shows that you're defensive.

I had never heard that before and I thought it was rather interesting. But it's better for me if I don't know things like that. That's because I act on stuff like that. It affects my behavior. I didn't think it would, but here's what happened.

The very next Sunday I was sitting in Sunday School listening to an Mark's lesson and at one point I realized that my arms were folded. I quickly unfolded them because I know that Mark is up on things like that and I thought that he might interpret my arms being folded as a sign that I didn't agree with the particular point he was teaching. So I unfolded them and made sure each arm was at my side. But a few minutes later I noticed that my arms were folded again. So I quickly unfolded them and this time I grabbed onto the backs of the chairs on either side of me so that there would be no possibility of my folding my arms. So I had my arms both outstretched as far as they could go. My body contortions probably looked really strange to anyone who was observing me—but I was doing them to prevent myself from folding my arms.

Actually, I think that theory about having your arms folded being defensive doesn't hold water in a lot of cases. Marg and I were out to dinner the other night and we had a great meal and time together. Yet I noticed that I was sitting with my arms folded during our time together—yet I was quite content and happy.

Although certain body poses may or may not disclose information about your mood or inner feelings, names in the Bible often do have very important meanings. That's the case in our text. God is revealing information about the Messiah to His people. He reveals that a child is going to be born, a son is going to be given—then Isaiah reveals four of the Messiah's names.
E. J. Young says, (p. 331)

"In the Bible the name indicates the character, essence or nature of a person or object."

These names are descriptive, telling us what the Messiah would be like. This morning I want to look at the first name. E. J. Young, (Isaiah, Vol. 1, p. 334) writes of the two components of this name,

"They are a healing balm in which the Christian soul will find comfort and strength throughout time and eternity."

In other words, if we understand this name properly, it will help us successfully face the difficulties, problems and hardships of life with confidence, hope and the certainty of ultimate deliverance.

So what is the first name that we have here?

The child who would be born, the son who would be given would be,

Wonderful Counselor.

These two words go together and form one name. Throughout the ages there has been some dispute about how many names are in this verse. If you look at the Vulgate, the early Latin translation of the Bible, (5th century) you'll find that has six names of the Messiah in this chapter. They are: "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty, God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Many of the older English translations have five, taking Wonderful and Counselor as two separate names, but putting 'Mighty' and 'God' together.

But it seems that there are four names here, not five or six. There are a few arguments and perhaps the best is the remarkable symmetry that is seen in these Hebrew words.
E. J. Young quotes from Herntrich and says, (Isaiah, Vol. 1 p. 333)

"in each name one of the two words always describes the earthly side and the other the 'metaphysical' side of government. In the first two names, the designation of deity is first, whereas in the last two it is the second member of the name. This point may be illustrated, if we print in capital letters the designation of divinity, leaving in smaller letters the designation of humanity. Thus:PELE yo'etz El gibbor vi AD sar SHALOM."

We don't see this in the English translations (as they sometimes reverse the Hebrew word order, as in 'Mighty God') but the symmetry is: Divinity, humanity, Divinity humanity, humanity Divinity, humanity Divinity. Thus we take the name as one, but with two components.

The first one is a great divine name. It is that of

wonder, wonderful.

This is a name par excellence. E. J. Young, writes,

"All the following designations are influenced by or stand under the shadow of this first majestic name."

So we see that this word 'wonder' is not merely an adjective, subservient to 'counselor' as if it were just describing what kind of counselor He was. It does that. But the word is actually a noun. My Hebrew dictionary (Brill) tells us that this word gives,

"one of the royal titles (throne names) of the Messiah… the one who plans a miracle, the miracle worker"

Thus what we see is that

this is a divine name.

E. J. Young writes, (p. 334)

"To designate the Child with the word pele' is to make the clearest attestation of His deity."

One of the things that shows this is that fact that this Hebrew word was used exclusively in the Old Testament to refer to works (wonders) that only God could accomplish. E. J. Young writes, (p. 333, note 75)

"In the Bible the word pele is employed of what God, never of what man, has done."

There are a couple of places where it is used of man but in each case it refers to something that man is unable to do or grasp. Proverbs 30:18-19 is an example. Solomon wrote,

"There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden."

Those things were too wonderful for him to understand. The word was used in reference to a man, but only to show that it was beyond him.

Doing wonders is a divine activity. We see this in
Psalm 72:18 (NIV) where it is translated, 'marvelous'.

"Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds."

Psalm 78:12-16 gives us a description of some God's wonderful deeds. The word that is translated 'miracles' is the same word in our text, 'wonder'.

"He did miracles [wonders] in the sight of their fathers
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand firm like a wall.
He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the desert
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers."

E. J. Young, (p. 334)

"All these mighty miracles are characterized as wonders. The word refers to what God has done and not to the work of man."

So that fact that the word 'wonder' is only used to refer to God's works shows us that anyone who is called by this name is divine.

That this name was divine is also revealed in Judges 13. You'll remember the story. An angel of the Lord appeared to Samson's parents, predicting his birth. Manoah wanted to know the angel's name. When he asked Him the angel of God replied, (Judges 13:18 HCSB)

"Why do you ask My name
since it is wonderful."

It's the same root word that is used here in our text here in Isaiah 9:6. We then read that then Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. Judges continues, (Judges 13:18-22 NIV)

"And the LORD did an amazing [wonderful] thing
while Manoah and his wife watched:
As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven,
the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame.
Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell
with their faces to the ground.
When the angel of the LORD
did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife,
Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD.
'We are doomed to die!'
he said to his wife.
'We have seen God!'"

Manoah and his wife realized that they had not been visited, not merely by an ordinary angel, but by God Himself. The name "Wonder" or "Wonderful" is a divine name. It clearly denotes deity.

The Child that was going to be born would be a Wonder—the Wonder. Perhaps the best way to try grasp an aspect of this is to think about what we are told of Jesus in
Revelation 5:6. We read,

"Then I saw a Lamb,
looking as if it had been slain,
standing in the center of the throne,
encircled by the four living creatures and the elders."

Think of God's throne. This Wonder is at the center of God's throne. Jesus, the Creator of all things is there to receive glory and honor and praise from all creatures. It's hard for us to grasp how glorious He is.

Think of the angels praising Him. Think of the vision that described for us in Isaiah 6, with the seraphs surrounding the throne singing praises to God. (Isaiah 6:3)

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."

Think of how glorious this Wonder is. Such righteousness. Such power and authority.

Then consider that this Wonder came to redeem His people by dying for them. He became a Child. Remember how Peter told us that when the, (1 Peter 1:10-12)

"the prophets… searched intently
and with the greatest care,
trying to find out the time and circumstances
to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing
when he predicted the sufferings of Christ
and the glories that would follow…
Even angels long to look into these things."

Consider the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne. He is the Wonder. Such love. He came to die for sinners. He died and redeemed them. He is a Wonder.

How transcendent He is! How transcendent His works! He is a Wonder and He has done Wonders for us. E. J.
Young writes, (p. 334)

"Not merely is the Messiah wonderful but He is Himself a Wonder, through and through."

There are two lessons for us here.

First, what awe and reverence you should have for Jesus.

Whenever you think of our Lord, whenever you read the gospels about what He did, whenever you read the Old Testament prophecies about Him, whenever you read about His coming Kingdom—what absolute and profound admiration you ought to have for Jesus. How you ought to esteem Him and hold Him high in your thoughts. There is no one like Him. He is a Wonder. He is far above the majestic and glorious angels. He is God Himself. He excels in righteousness and truth. He excels in love. He is a Wonder and He has done wonderful things on your behalf. He died for you.

The second lesson we learn from this is that

your confidence in Jesus, this Wonder, should be unbounded.

Jesus our Savior, our Good Shepherd—is a Wonder, His works are Wonderful. That means that He is glorious and majestic in power, in wisdom, in knowledge, faithfulness, in love. This is the One with whom you have to do.

This wonder has set His love on you and nothing can separate you from that love. He is the Wonder at the center of God's throne. He is the Wonder that is building His church.
Christians, trust Him, praise Him! Just before He ascended into heaven Jesus said to His disciples, (Matthew 28:18f)

"All authority in heaven and earth
has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,"

No one will be able to thwart His plans or prevent their accomplishment. We see this even in verse 7 of Isaiah 9. It says,

"Of the increase 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."

The zeal of the Lord Almighty is going to honor and exalt Jesus. What does that tell you? He is so worthy! He is so glorious! He is such a Wonder!

Christians, be confident. Don't fear. Don't let fear or anxiety stop you from doing your duty. All authority has been given to Him. Jesus made that crystal clear to us. Our job is to take that knowledge and boldly go forth in the power of the Lord knowing that He has all power to protect, preserve, and deliver us.

Peter was in jail, securely bound between two guards, yet the chains fell off and an angel led him out. When they came to locked doors they opened in front of them.

Lystra it seemed like Paul was facing certain death. The crowd turned against him and started to stone him. Could anything save Paul. From a human perspective it looked hopeless. They were going to stone Paul to death. And that's what they thought they did. They stoned him and then dragged his body outside the city and left it there, thinking that he was dead. (Acts 14:19-20) But Paul wasn't dead. The disciples gathered round him and he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. He wasn't even seriously injured.

Jesus is able to deliver us from prison if He chooses. He is able to deliver from certain death.
But more than those things, which He may or may not do for you—be certain that He is able to bring to eternal glory. When Stephen was being stoned he saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. (Acts 7:55)

Jesus is a wonder. He is, as we read in
Ephesians 3:20,

"able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,"

Don't underestimate or minimize His power. He is a Wonder. He has done and will do wonders. He will bring you to glory.

Trust Him and give yourself to the great privilege that is yours—of bringing Him glory. Go out boldly with the gospel. Jesus is building His church. He is Wonderful. His ways are wonderful. Serve Him with joy and boldness.

But that's a great and daunting task, isn't it? Do you have the wisdom for it? This leads us to the second part of the Messiah's name. It is


E. J. Young writes, (p. 335)

"There is a certain uniqueness about the word, for it suggests that this One has no need of being surrounded with counselors and advisors, as is the case with mere human kings; He is Himself Counselor."

John Calvin writes,

"The reason of this second title is, that the Redeemer will come endowed with absolute wisdom… he is in every respect the highest and most perfect teacher."

Solomon was renowned for his wisdom. Remember what the Queen of Sheba said about him? (1 Kings 10:6-9 NIV)

"The report I heard in my own country
about your achievements and your wisdom is true.
But I did not believe these things
until I came and saw with my own eyes.
Indeed, not even half was told me;
in wisdom and wealth
you have far exceeded the report I heard.
How happy your men must be!
How happy your officials,
who continually stand before you
and hear your wisdom!
Praise be to the LORD your God,
who has delighted in you
and placed you on the throne of Israel.
Because of the LORD'S eternal love for Israel,
he has made you king,
to maintain justice and righteousness.

But Solomon was but a poor reflection of the wisdom of the true Messiah. Colossians 2:2-3 says of Christ,

"in whom are hidden
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus is thoroughly wise. There is nothing lacking in His knowledge or wisdom. He is wisdom. He is the great Counselor.

The Messiah is wonderful in counsel. E. J.
Young, writes, (Isaiah p. 335)

"To sit upon the throne of David as the Messianic King requires wisdom such as no mere man possesses. The Counselor Himself must for that reason be a Wonder in order that He may establish and administer His kingdom."

He is, as Isaiah 28:29 says,

"wonderful in counsel
and magnificent in wisdom."

How wise our Savior is! Remember when the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap Jesus by asking Him difficult and loaded questions. Jesus confounded them with His wisdom. In Luke 20:26 we read,

"They were unable to trap him
in what he had said there in public.
And astonished by his answer,
they became silent."

Jesus is Wonderful Counselor. Nothing can take Jesus by surprise. He knows the beginning from the end. He's not like David, who didn't know that his son Absalom was stealing the hearts of the people of Israel. Remember how Absalom would get up early and stand by the road leading to the city and if someone was coming to see the King with a complaint Absalom would tell them that their claims were valid and proper but that there was no representative of the king to hear their complaints. Then Absalom would say, (2 Samuel 15:4 NIV)

"If only I were appointed judge in the land!
Then everyone who has a complaint or case
could come to me
and I would see that he gets justice.""

Unknown to David, Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

The Messiah would not be like that. In chapter 11 Isaiah wrote of Him, (Isaiah 11:2-4 NIV)

"The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge
and of the fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions
for the poor of the earth.

There are three lessons for you Christians from this.

First, trust God's providence.

This world seems to be a mess. Bad things happen. Sometimes it seems that the very worst things that could happen to us—happen. Like Job, we're perplexed.

But remember that this Wonder is a wise administrator of the church. He rules well. Be assured that Jesus is building His church. He is establishing His Kingdom. The Wonderful Counselor is ruling all things.

Secondly, you Christians need to be much in His Word so that you will know His will, so that you will know how to obey Him, so that you may know the Father.

There are wonders revealed in Jesus. Truth is revealed through Him. He knows the Father and reveals Him to us. As we read in John 1:18,

"No one has ever seen God,
but God the One and Only,
who is at the Father's side,
has made him known."

Thirdly, go to the Wonderful Counselor for wisdom.

In James 1:5 we are told,

"If any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God,
who gives generously to all
without finding fault,
and it will be given to him."

How we need counsel. Every step of every day we need His counsel. In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Walk with Him.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, you should see how much you need this Wonder.

As you are now you are lost in your sins. You need someone to do wonders on your behalf, to rescue you. As you are now you are blinded by darkness. Foolishness is what the world surrounds you with. You need this wise and knowledgeable Counselor. Go to Him. Ask this Wonderful Counselor to save you.