Year after year, I find myself returning to the marvelous prophecy of Isaiah at during the Christmas season. Isaiah, who, writing in the 7th century B.C., provided the ancient Israelites very important prophetic insight about the Messiah Whom God the Father would send to His people.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
6 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.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7
Like other peoples of the Middle East in early history, the Israelites very carefully picked names for their children. The names tended to be descriptive of the child’s heritage or the parents’ (in some cases, God’s) hopes for him or her.
Abigail (first wife of David) in Hebrew means “Father’s Joy” (lit., “my father has made himself joyful”)
Elisha—“God Is Salvation”
Elijah—“Jehovah is God”
Gideon—“Great Warrior” (lit. “One Who Cuts Down”)
Daniel—“God Is My Judge”
Abraham—“Father of a Multitude”
Joshua—“Jehovah Saves” (pronounced “Yeshuah”); this is the Hebrew form of the name “Jesus”: Matthew 1:21: “and you shall call His name Jesus (Yeshuah), for He will save His people from their sins.”
Most of Isaiah’s prophecy deals with a terrible calamity taking place in Israel, as Israel is overrun and destroyed by the Babylonians. But Isaiah does not stop with the message of calamity. He encourages his readers—and us—about God’s promises of a redeemer, a future king from heaven who would rule the world . . . the Messiah or Savior. Isaiah shows what we may call a “foreshortened” view of the prophetic future—foretelling both the first advent of the Messiah and the second advent without always clearly distinguishing between the two in the text. His message, however, is that the calamity about the envelop Israel is not permanent. God will send His Messiah. And eventually the Messiah will rule the earth.
The Messiah’s Identity
He would be humble leader who is “God with us” (Hebrew: Immanuel), and He would come as a child—“For unto us a Child is born”—The future king would be the child Isaiah first mentioned in 7:14 . . . a miraculous birth of a Son who would be Immanuel (“God with Us”). The name “Immanuel” applied to the future Messiah is a key theological statement in that Isaiah correctly identifies the future Messiah and King as God Himself coming to be among mankind.
Isaiah’s prophecies are the first to communicate the humble nature of the advent of God on earth. He pictures the Messiah as a both humble servant and everlasting king. Rather than dealing just with the Messiah’s first advent, however, Isaiah also shows us the Messiah as the future ruler who is the one having the birthright to assume the throne of David (9:7).
Isaiah tells us what the Messiah will be like:
"Wonderful" or "Wonderful Counselor"
Some debate about whether this designation is one term (“Wonderful Counselor”; i.e., an adjective modifying a noun) or two (“Wonderful” and “Counselor”; i.e., two distinct qualities). There is no punctuation in Hebrew text, so this is an issue we cannot resolve from a study of the text itself. However, the difference is not something that radically changes the meaning. The term “wonderful” in Hebrew is used only to describe God. It is used 21 times in the Old Testament, every time referring to the work of God. For example, Isaiah 28:29 reads: “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”
The Hebrew terms refers only to “the ability to accomplish something that cannot be accomplished; to do or show marvelous works and miracles; to do the works only God can do.” Thus, the ability to perform miracles was the commonly accepted “sign” of God or God’s work and hence was referred to by the term used only for God and His works: “wonderful.”
So when Isaiah identifies the Messiah as “wonderful,” he is telling us that the Messiah would be God Himself; that is, corresponding to the term “Immanuel” (God with us) in 7:14. This theme is found throughout the Bible. For example, John the Baptist sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answer was, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:20-22). In other words, the miracles He performed proved He is God.
The Hebrew terms means “a guide, teacher, or intercessor.” It can be taken here to mean all three—guide, teacher, and intercessor. “Counselor” is a term associated with government. Every king had many counselors who were experts in their fields to advise him. So when we see the Messiah as the “Wonderful Counselor,” we know Him as a miracle worker, and miracle of God the Father Himself, a counselor or teacher who does powerful works only God can do.
But, we say, aren’t these roles of the Holy Spirit? Isn’t it the Holy Spirit who is our Counselor and Guide? Yes, but as two of the three persons of God, the Son and the Spirit are one.
Look at John 14:15-17: “15 ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper (“Counselor”), that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus is teaching the disciples that He will not always be with them, and when He is gone, the Father would send them another Counselor (also translated “Helper”). The word “another” here means literally “another exactly like.” So Jesus is indicating that at that time He was filling the role of Helper or Counselor, and another exactly like Him—that is, a person of God—would follow and be present with believers once Jesus was gone. This Helper—the Holy Spirit—would be with us, live in us, and fill the purpose of being our guide and teacher, just as Jesus had done when He was physically present with His people. And, in fact, Jesus works together with the Holy Spirit to intercede for us with God the Father.
Isaiah is emphasizing that the Messiah would be God Himself—reiterating the identify He gave Him in 7:14 (Immanuel— “God with us”).
In Scripture, this truth is repeated in different ways. For instance, in Colossians 2:9 we read “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (lit., “in bodily form”).” In other words, the Messiah is God Himself, or as we refer to Him, one of the three persons of God or the Godhead. In addition, we have Jesus’ own words: “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father” and Paul’s description in Colossians 1:15-16: “15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”
The Messiah is consistently identified at God Himself throughout Scripture—the image of the invisible God, the creator, the one in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily; “Immanuel.”
Isaiah does not describe the future Messiah only as God, but uses the adjective “mighty,” the Hebrew term meaning giant, strong, valiant, chief; one who excels. Isaiah wanted to stress the power and might of the Messiah as Immanuel, God of infinite power dwelling among His people. He uses this phrase “Mighty God” to refer both to the coming Messiah and to the Father. For example, we read in Isaiah 10:21: “The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.”
The Hebrew term here would be literally translated “Father of Eternity” and can mean not only the eternally existing God, but also the One who gives His people access to eternal life. The Septuagint translates the term “Father of the world to come.”
“Father” in the context of Isaiah’s time and culture included a whole bundle of attributes inherent in the father role: protector, provider, the one whose name the children bear. The term was used more widely than to refer only to the father of a family unit. The king was regarded as the father of his subjects (protector and provider). Also, various spiritual leaders of the Israelites—Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, to name a few—were at times referred to as “father.”
Describing the Messiah as “Eternal Father” also emphasizes the Messiah’s identity with and sameness with the Father—both always were and always will be. Jesus attested to this also in John 14:8-11: “8 Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”
"Prince of Peace"
When the Bible speaks of peace through Christ, it almost always refers to “peace with God.” For instance, Romans 5:1 tells us “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Peace” is that familiar Hebrew term “shalom,” which literally means harmony, wholeness, well-being. Jesus came to bring peace (peace with God, reconciliation with God) to those who would trust in Him. There also may be a dual emphasis in this name for the Messiah, also. The prophecies of the Messiah in Isaiah do not clearly differentiate between the first and second advent of the Messiah. Therefore, the Messiah is described both as a babe and a powerful king. In his foreshortened view of the advent of the Messiah, Isaiah’s use of the identify “Prince of Peace” can reasonably be understood in terms of the first advent (Jesus enabled mankind to find peace with God) and the second advent (when Jesus returns to bring peace, in a fundamentally changed physical world where there will be no strife).
When the heavenly host sang “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14)—they were singing of the Father’s goodwill and peace toward mankind, made real by His sending the Son, the Messiah, as the means of restoring peace with Him.