- David Wesley: Beloved One / dad’s name
- Danielle Dawn: God is my judge
- Alethia Grace: (John 1:17)
- Amiyah Joy: (Zephaniah 3:17)
- Audry Leelah (Psalm 96:6)
- Avee Elaine (James 1:17)
- Zeke Alistair (Ps 59:17)
Names are not only for personal identification, but they tell a story about your family, your history/culture, and your uniqueness. In biblical times, a person’s name also described their character and calling:
- Abram: Exalted father / Abraham: father of multitude
- Moses: drawn out of water (his birth / Exodus)
- David: beloved, man after God’s heart
- Peter: rock
When the angel appeared to Joseph, he said, “do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:20-25
Jesus: Yahweh saves. Immanuel: God with us.
This latter name comes from a prophecy in the book of Isaiah. Through Christmas, our Advent readings and sermon messages will be from the book of Isaiah. The NT quotes Isaiah more than all the other prophets. Isaiah is like a miniature Bible:
- Bible has 66 Books, Isaiah has 66 chapters;
- OT has 39 books, NT 27 as Isaiah 39 chapters speak of God’s judgment and the next 27 chapters speak of God’s comfort and hope for Israel;
- The NT opens with announcements of Jesus’ birth as does Isaiah;
- The Gospels end with the crucifixion and end the NT with Revelation of new heavens and earth as Isaiah does in chapters 53 and concluding 66:18-23.
Isaiah depicts this deliverer as a unique male child having 4 names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Each of these names have significance in the life of Jesus.
Isaiah 9:1-7 “1 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 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. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
Jesus is light invading darkness.
Isaiah’s ministry occurs around 740B.C.; so about the midpoint between the beginning of the book of Judges and the birth of Christ. At this time, the nation of Israel has divided into two kingdoms with 10 tribes to the north and 2 tribes (Benjamin & Judah) to the south. Both kingdoms have continued sinful rebellion, moral corruption, rote religion, and spiritual drift.
Isaiah 1:5-6 “Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? Your whole head is sick, and your whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds, they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.”
The prophet would go on to say, “The people will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” (Isa 8:21-22).
While the Assyrian army invaded the land of Judah (tribal territories of Zebulun and Naphtali or more commonly known in NT as Galilee) leaving the land famished, empty and in total despair and darkness. Left alone, there was little hope in Judah. Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 9 is in a verbal tense that the action is already completed, yet we know it was not.
- This prophecy was not shared at a Christmas party but spoken during a critical and perilous season.
- The prophet trusted God’s promises were already fulfilled because of His faithfulness to his covenant promise to give help and hope (Gen 12:1-3, Ps 105:8-11).
In time these lands would be re-made glorious, and the people would see a great light (cf. Matthew 4:12-17). God would not leave Israel alone. He promised to intervene with a deliverer to save Israel.
The skeptic will say: how does this prophecy help the people in their own time? Israel would still be enslaved to Assyria, later to Greeks (Alexander), and then later the Romans. Further, some will say, how does this prophecy and Christmas hope relate to my current challenges?
The birth/life/death/resurrection of Jesus profoundly relates to our problems because our issues are deeper than the surface. A nation’s greatest adversary is not merely an enemy army; and our greatest issues are not financial/physical/health. Our greatest and deepest need is separation from God.
- What does it profit a person to gain the whole world – riches, hospital-free health, earthly happiness – but lose their soul? Eternity lasts longer than the potential 100 years on earth.
Think about advances of technology.
- Home appliances like ovens, washer/dryer, dishwasher, vacuum were supposed to decrease labor time and increase time for family and fun. But humanity pours itself into more work.
- Computers and the internet were to increase information. It has but lots of useless and untrue information that must be sorted/discerned.
- Cell phones and social media were to increase communication. Yet, most people feel ever more alone.
- Technology and human innovation merely create new shapes to cover sin’s shadow.
- We cry out for deliverance from stress but God develops our strength in the stress.
- We cry out for deliverance from broken relationships, but God points out our own selfishness.
- We cry out for healing for fear of death, but God wants to deliver us from the curse of the second death.
- We pursue flawed saviors and defective deliverers, when instead we must look to the gospel of Jesus. God’s solutions are not aimed at our immediate wants but our eternal need.
- Since Jesus is light invading darkness, where do you need to stop making shadows and permit God’s light to shine in your life? A struggle… a sin…
Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor
The child is called wonderful counselor. In Hebrew (פֶּ֠לֶא יֹועֵץ֙) pele (astonishing, marvelous, uniquely separate, beyond understanding, supernatural; cf Judges 13:18) and is connected to the divine character of God. His other name yawvets meant to instruct or guide; one advises with authority, like a king. Therefore, when we read the word “counselor,” we should think less of a therapist and more as a strategist – one who sees and solves problems, especially in conflict or combat.
Consider not only a friend who listens but having a friend in a high position who is ability and authority to take action.
- Ex. Family went out to see grammy in IA. Hospice noted a potential dire circumstance at time. Family traveled from multiple states to see her but covid restrictions limited # visitors. Uncle Mick spoke to manager saying he knew the Owner of housing complex and board members and if allowances were not made then he would make calls. After a brief discussion, all the family was able to see grammy. The nieces sent thank you flowers to staff to cover for their uncle’s stern words 🙂
- Ex. My family has visited the WH a couple times – once for Christmas and another time for the Easter Egg roll. For many people this would takes months of sign-up and long vetting process; and then only maybe access. Yet, I had a friend who worked at the WH who was able to get us entry to the events.
Describing Jesus as a counselor gives some people pause. Counseling does not sound inviting to most. Sharing your feelings, or even more, expressing your faults and vulnerabilities are not first on our priority list. Yet, there’s something powerful about pouring out your heart in prayer to one who has powerful ability to help.
Psalm 130 “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, you hear my voice… I wait for the LORD, my soul waits and in his word I hope, my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.”
1 Samuel 1 Hannah went to the house of the LORD… she prayed to the LORD… she was deeply distressed and wept bitterly, praying to the LORD… she kept praying despite her affliction and grief… she spoke of her anxiety and sorrow… AND THE LORD REMEMBERED HER.
Young Mary questioned her circumstances – “How will this be?” She poured out her heart and prayed, saying, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (1:28). She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant, in remembrance of his mercy” (Luke 1:46-54).
If we have problems, we must pay the price of going to the Counselor.
- In life we have informal counselors (friends, family, etc.) and formal counselors (doctors, pastors). How do we know if we need formal counseling?
- Emotions become elevated. Anger/Sadness at simple things.
- Regular activity becomes overwhelming or unenjoyable.
- Inability to start or move forward with life.
Isaiah described this unique child, who would be Jesus Christ, as the wonderful counselor with divine authority, divine ability, and heavenly affection. And there are two ways we should approach this Counselor:
- Openness: A counselor cannot help us if we are not honest.
- Obedience: A counselor is ineffective if we do not heed advice.
- Where do you need to be open and obedient to Jesus?
Jesus is the Giver and the Gift.
Isaiah describes the child as a “son given” to sit on the throne by “the zeal of the LORD.” Israel’s peace and prosperity rested not in their ability to create a government but to receive a gift. They could not contribute to their strength or salvation. The people’s deliverance arrives not with their shouldering power but when the burden of rule is laid upon His shoulders. The LORD is the Giver of freedom and comfort. It’s all His entire doing, not humanity. He will establish a fixed and final kingdom and uphold it with justice and righteousness. The LORD is not only the Giver, but He’s the Gift.
God’s gift is not just His kingly rule but a relationship. God’s answer to our problems and burdens is His very own Son – one who will be born, grow as a child, and live as the supreme servant. God’s power is superior to His enemies that He can defeat them by becoming an infant; His answer to the bullies of history is becoming a baby. In Scripture, and especially the prophetic nativity message, we discover God’s secret to world peace is not crushing enemies but crucified humility. Jesus will be king not by military force but merciful compassion.
This is the kingdom that “there will be no end.” The empire of truth and grace will gloriously expand, broaden, widen, deepen, intensify, and multiply. Our finite experience of God will grow wonderfully infinite, and every new moment will be better than the last.
- Reflect upon God as the Giver and the Gift. One of the ways you can do this is by studying the names of God. Sometime during the month of December, take 60 minutes to reflect on the names of God. Write a list as long as you can from memory. After time, utilize your Bible to discover more names. When you are ready, compare your list with this study on the names of God.
This message has proclaimed Jesus is
- Light invading darkness.
- Wonderful Counselor.
- Giver and Gift.
How do you view Jesus?
What name would you give Jesus?
People and religions have varying perspectives about Jesus. This reality is captured in a story about a man who fell into a pit.
- Buddhist came along and said, “You must become one w/ the pit.”
- Pharisee/fundamentalist said, “You deserve the pit.”
- Faith-healer said, “You must believe you can get out of the pit.”
- Social Gospel Preacher said, “We brought you food, clothing, and a tarp while you’re in the pit.”
- Calvinist said, “Your being in the pit is no accident but God’s design.”
- Democrat said, “Your pit requires a higher tax bracket and for every step out of the pit will require approval from the permit office, which is backlogged by 3-years.”
- Republican said, “Your pit requires a congressional summit to discuss potential options for making pits great again.”
- Optimist said, “Things will eventually get better.”
- Pessimist said, “Things can get much worse.”
- JESUS says, “Take my hand.”
Christmas is the invitation to take the helping hand of the Wonderful Counselor.
 Apologetic thoughts inspired from J.D. Greear sermon on Isaiah 9:1-6.
 J.A. Motyer, Isaiah, Vol.20 Tyndale Commentary.
 Ortlund, R. C., Jr., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Isaiah: God saves sinners (p. 100). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.