One of the tasks that confront every parent is the job of coming up with a name for their new baby. I remember that struggle. Some names are immediately dismissed because they don’t sound right. Some names are dismissed because you associate them with certain people who are weird, people you don’t like, or because the names have certain stereotypes that go with them. Finding the right name is something most parents agonize over.
As much as we care about names, the people of the Bible cared even more. Names were most often picked because of the meaning of the name. We read several places where people had their names changed as a result of their new relationship with God (Abram became Abraham; Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul). Other people were given names that were to represent various truths (consider the zany names of the children of Hosea, or the symbolic names of the children of Joseph). So when we read names in the Bible have not been selected simply because they “sound cool”.
In the Bible according to Naves Topical Bible there are more than 250 different names for Jesus! You’ll be glad to know that we are not going to look at all of them! But we are going to look at a few of them. We are going to spend the four weeks of Advent reflecting on the four (some would say five) names of Jesus given in Isaiah 9:6. We are going to look at these names like a person might look at a diamond, turning it to try to better grasp the richness of beauty.
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
Prince of Peace.
There is some debate on this first name. In the King James Version Wonderful and Counselor are two separate names. Some of us are used to hearing them that way from the song, “For Unto Us a Child is Born” from Handel’s Messiah (based on the King James Version). But in contemporary versions of the Bible they are listed as one name. Why? The answer isn’t very complicated. The thought is that Isaiah was being uniform in his structure. Each of the other three names consisted of two words so it is believed that Isaiah meant the first to be two words. Either way, this is quite a title.
The word used for wonderful is the same word used in Judges 13:18 “He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” The words “beyond understanding” is from the same word as the word translated “wonderful” in Isaiah. In other words, Jesus would be a Counselor that was greater than we could begin to comprehend.
But who cares? Why do we need a Counselor? Let me suggest three reasons why the world (and we) needed a “Wonderful Counselor”:
- The world is often a confusing and overwhelming place. We need someone to help us get through the fog.
- We have a sin problem that we cannot handle by ourselves. We may try to be good but we fail. We need someone who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We need someone who can lead us to salvation and new life.
- We yearn for a relationship with God. Some people don’t realize it but they are searching for meaning and purpose in their life. They are seeking the Almighty. We need someone who can lead us to Him.
With these things in mind I want to address an important question. Why is Jesus a ‘Wonderful Counselor”? Let me give you a few reasons.
The first characteristic of a good Counselor is someone who is able to rightly identify the problem in the one they are counseling. We have all had experience with people who tried to counsel us but didn’t have any idea what we were going through,
- The single person counseling on marriage
- The Childless couple counseling their friends on parenting
- The person who doesn’t understand depression who tells a depressed person to “just straighten up”
- The person who has never experienced loss who tells a grieving person to “get over it.”
- A person who has never struggled in life trying to counsel someone who has struggled all his/her life.
When you are on the receiving end of counsel from one of these counselors we become exasperated and frustrated because it is obvious that the person doesn’t understand. Their information is coming from books. It’s plastic and inappropriate. These are not wise counselors.
It is tempting to think that Jesus might fit into this category. He wasn’t married, He was God’s Son, He had never sinned. But Jesus does understand. This is what makes Christ so special. Listen to the Bible’s testimony,
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Do you understand that this is what Christmas is about? God becomes man to face what we face, to walk in our shoes. He knew what it was like to suffer. He knew temptation. He understood the desire to strike back, to give up, to despair. The only difference between our experience and the experience of Jesus is that He got through the tempting times without giving in. He was without sin but that doesn’t mean He was without struggle.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Jesus wasn’t born in a temple. He wasn’t born as royalty. He was considered the illegitimate son of a carpenter and his teenage bride. In Matthew we read, “Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20) Jesus knew what it was like to face rejection and ridicule. He knew what it was like to be poor.
He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
Jesus understood (and understands) the hurts, the needs, and the rebellion of men. The Lord understands our tears. Take your best friend, the person who listens when no one else will, the person who understands your deepest need, the person who will not jump on you when you make a mistake but will help you get back up . . . . Jesus is like that, only extraordinarily better.
A good counselor is not just sympathetic. You can hurt with others and still not be able to help them. A good counselor must know how to help. They must know the appropriate prescription for the problem.
Don’t you love it when you tell someone that you are feeling anxious and they say, “Well, don’t think about it” or “Don’t worry about it.” Don’t you want to say, “Wow, what extraordinarily empty advice that is. You make it sound like I want to be anxious.”
There are examples of a number of poor counselors in the Bible. In the Garden of Eden Satan acted as a Counselor and told Eve to eat what God had forbidden. He counseled Jesus to make stones in to bread and to test God’s love. The wife of Job told him to “Curse God and die!” Job’s friends told him to repent because he must have done something wrong if bad things were happening to him. All were foolish counselors giving bad advice.
We also see several examples of good counsel. Jethro advised Moses to delegate authority. The prophets were constantly advising the Kings to “trust God”. And then there is this great story about Solomon,
1 Kings 3:16-27
Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.“And so they argued before the king.
The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king.
He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
This is wise counsel. Solomon read the situation correctly and found a way to bring the best resolution.
Jesus is the wisest Counselor because His wisdom if from the throne room of Heaven.
He never sought the counsel of man, and He never asked for the advice of man. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34). God has no counselor. The Lord Jesus Christ never called His disciples together and said, “Now, fellows, what do you think I ought to do?” You don’t read anything like that in Scripture. The Lord called them together and said, “This is what I am going to do, because this is My Father’s will.” And Christ has been made unto us wisdom (see 1 Cor. 1:30). Most of us are not very smart. We must go to Him for help.
Our Lord does several things when we turn to Him. First, He tells us the truth. He tells us what is really wrong with our lives. He points out that we are rebelling against God. We are like sheep who have gone astray. He tells us that we need to repent of our sin.
He is like a Doctor who tells someone suffering from emphysema that they need to stop smoking cigarettes and stop hanging around with people who smoke. Understanding what is causing the problem is essential before you can solve the problem.
Second, Jesus tells us to trust what He has done for us. In Matthew 20:28 we read,
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus understood that we could not save ourselves. Something needed to be done for us. Jesus didn’t just tell us that we needed help. He provided the help we need.
Did you see the story on television recently about the young girl who received two organ transplants at once? She received a liver and a kidney. Her father and her Grandmother both willingly provided for this girl they loved. Without their provision, without their sacrifice, this girl was going to die. All the good intentions in the world could not change the disease that was inside of her.
It is somewhat like that for us. We can want to be forgiven but we can’t do anything about defeating the disease of sin that stalks us and enslaves us. Jesus provided what we could not provide for ourselves. He gave His life as payment for our sin. The prescription of our wonderful counselor is “Trust me and take what I have provided.”
Third, our Counselor gives us a prescription for life that will help us continue to live a spiritually healthy life. This prescription is found in the Bible. In John 14:21,23-24 Jesus said,
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”. . . “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
People who have had heart surgery are given a prescription. They are told to walk regularly, to watch their diet, to take their medicine and to get their regular check-ups. If you do those things, you will get better and be able to enjoy your life. But if you ignore those prescriptions you will not regain your strength or vitality and will probably die much sooner.
Our Lord has given us His prescription for joyful living. He told us to resist the morality and advice of the world and to follow God’s directions. Practically, that means
- We are to trust Him rather than trusting ourselves
- We are to love rather than take advantage of one another
- We are to forgive rather than be bitter
- We are to be holy rather than profane
- We are to store up treasures in Heaven rather than on earth
- We are to be generous rather than selfish
- We are to seek to serve rather than be served
The counsel of Jesus is superb. He understands our situation and has addressed with love and wisdom. However, most people don’t know this because they haven’t given His counsel a chance.
The best test of a good counselor is whether the people who go to that counselor are helped. And if you know anything about the Bible you know that Jesus was the most effective counselor that ever lived. Consider,
- Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2) who was delivered from seven demons
- The Gedarenes Demoniacs (Matthew 8:28ff) who were so violent everyone was scared of them Jesus delivered them and they were made normal.
- The Samaritan woman (John 4) who had been married and divorced five times and was currently living with a man – Jesus turned her into a Missionary
- The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8) was saved from death and sent on her way transformed.
- Zacchaeus was a despised tax-collector (Luke 19) and after meeting with Jesus vowed to repay anyone he cheated with interest
- The fisherman were turned into missionaries
- The religious leader, Nicodemus became a Christian even though it was very unpopular to do so.
And it is not just those who were in the Bible. Jesus is still changing lives. Consider
- St. Augustine was a womanizing man who ran with the wild crowd before becoming one of the greatest leaders of the church/
- John Newton was a drunken slave trader before he wrote “Amazing Grace”
- Johnny Cash was a hard living Country Singer before coming to Christ
- Chuck Colson was a convicted Watergate Conspirator before he met Christ. The Lord led him to begin Prison Fellowship and he has become one of the prophetic voices of our time.
- Alice Cooper was a wild and drug crazed rock singer before coming to Christ where he sits under the teaching of RC Sproul and others.
- George W. Bush was known for his parties before He met Christ
And if you look around there are many other names we could add to the list. Some of you have stories that would surprise the people sitting around you. Jesus Christ has made an impact on millions of lives over the years. For some, the progress has been slow and steady. For others it was a dramatic turnaround. But anyone who has come to the Savior willing to submit to His leadership in their life has found Him to be sufficient for their needs.
What I hope you see is that when Christ came into the world as a baby in Bethlehem, it was not some historical event that is irrelevant to you and me. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the Wonderful Counselor was born. He is one we have been looking for all our lives.
- He is the one who understands when no one else does
- He is the one who stands by us when everyone else turns away
- He is the one who really can help us confront the past and begin again
- He is the one who can help us find the God we knew was present but couldn’t reach.
But let me remind you that even the Wonderful Counselor cannot help you unless you are willing to be helped. Is it possible that Jesus is the one you have been looking for all your life? Maybe it is time to stop running faster and instead stop and listen to the Wonderful Counselor. Maybe it is time to stop hiding from the things that haunt your life. Why not take your hurts, fears, and failures and bring them to Jesus?
You don’t have to hide the truth about yourself. He already knows what you’re like. And He loves you anyway.
When Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem it was God’s way of sending us the help we needed. It was God, getting off the throne of Heaven to become a baby, so that He might come into our world, take our hand, and lead us home.