Summary: The magnificent fourfold name given to the promised child in Isaiah’s prophecy is a great encouragement, at Christmas and all year round.


I don’t expect any of you to remember, but I promised at this time last year to preach tonight’s sermon at some time. My pre-Christmas message in 2001 was on the subject of “God’s Unique Sign” and in it I briefly discussed the verse in Isaiah 9:6 where the promised son is to be called “wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father and Prince of Peace”. I have long wanted to preach on just this verse and tonight’s the night!

It is, I think, one of the best known verses in the Bible, because it is read as part of carols by candlelight events and other Christmas celebrations around the world every year. It is certainly one of the highlights of every performance of Handel’s “Messiah”, of which there are many at this time of year.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given ... and His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

These words were written by the prophet Isaiah more than 700 years before the birth of Jesus. As far as I’m concerned, that simple fact is sufficient proof that the Bible is God’s word. Some people try to claim that the Old Testament prophecies are actually just stories, written after the events to make it seem like God had revealed it beforehand. While I totally reject that idea, it simply doesn’t arise in relation to this verse. Seven hundred years! This is no fabrication, this is the revealed word of God spoken through Isaiah.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given ... and His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Some people try to claim that these words merely predicted the birth of another one of Israel’s kings, a good king to replace the evil Ahaz who reigned at the time. But as I will argue in a moment, this is absolute nonsense.

It is right that these words are read at Christmas because they were clearly fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son. No one in the history of the world comes even close to being worthy of the name given in this verse. This is no beat up, this is the revealed word of God spoken through Isaiah.

The Name in detail

In Hebrew there are 8 words in this Name, arranged in pairs. In each pair there is one word that speaks of something metaphysical, something divine, something “out there” about the character of this Son who was to be given; and the other word is more functional, speaking of what this person would do, what his role would be.

(The former are shown in BOLD in the following table, the latter are shown in lower case)

WONDERFUL Counsellor

GOD Mighty/Hero


Prince PEACE

Let’s work through these words one by one to uncover what they really mean.

· Wonderful

What do you think of when you read this word “wonderful”?

For all you soccer fans, the root word in Hebrew is pele. Now, I don’t know if the great Brazilian’s name comes from that same root, but when you think of the deeds of Pele on the soccer field and how wonderful they were compared to all the other players, you have a glimpse of what this word might mean in Isaiah’s prophecy.

“Pele” is used in Ps 78:12 which says that “God did wonders in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt”. It means there that God is a doer of miracles, of marvellous, wonderful things that are almost beyond understanding and are certainly beyond mere human ability.

It is also used in Judges 13:18 where it does mean “incomprehensible” or “beyond understanding”. In that verse it is talking about God.

Because other parts of the Bible say that God is pele, is wonderful, there is no doubt that when Isaiah calls this promised Child pele he means to say that he was divine, that this would be God Himself coming in the form of a child. In fact, the coming of the child would be the greatest wonder of them all, God’s greatest act of salvation.

· Counsellor

What do you think of with the word “counsellor”?

Isaiah 11:2 - speaking of the new king that would arise from “the stump of Jesse” (King David’s father), says that the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, “the Spirit of counsel and of power”.

Micah 4:9 - another verse that links the word “counsellor” with the king.

Counsel = that perfect wisdom that enables the king to make right decisions in leading the people. It refers to perfect understanding of the will of God, knowing exactly what is right and what God’s purposes are.

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David Quackenbush

commented on Dec 20, 2008

Excellent message

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