Summary: What does the title "Wonderful Counselor" tell us about Jesus?
This morning, we begin a new sermon series; during the Advent season, we’ll be looking at four of the names of Christ, found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. These names are prophetic descriptions of the King who was to come; they told God’s people what kind of deliverer He would send them; what kind of savior they should look for.
"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 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." -- Isaiah 9:6
Why study these names? Because there’s no better time than Christmas to consider why Jesus was born. Why God the Father sent His only Son; why it was necessary for God to become a man. These names help us understand the purpose behind the incarnation. Even more than that, they help us relate to God. They teach us, not just what the Messiah meant to the ancient Israelites, but also what He means to us today. They help us to know Christ better so that we can have a deeper relationship with Him. We also study these names simply because it’s encouraging. Listen to them again: "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Meditating on the character of God renews and strengthens our faith; it reminds us of how great and awesome our God is. It’s food for the soul.
This morning, we consider the first name, "Wonderful Counselor," and that’s certainly an appropriate topic for us today. It seems that never before have there been so many people searching for advice and counsel; so many confused, discouraged, frustrated, fearful, hopeless, angry, depressed, anxious people. Especially since September eleventh, people are seeking answers, looking for guidance and direction. And never before have there been so many claiming to have the answers. So many competing voices, calling out, "Listen to me! Follow me!" There are dozens of religions and secular philosophies to choose from; everything from Scientology to Islam to the various forms of New Age spirituality; hundreds of new self-help books are published every year; and the airwaves are full of gurus, and counselors, and experts of every kind. But we have something that cuts through all that clamor; something that takes us back to the source of true wisdom. And that’s the Word of God. So let’s look at this phrase, "Wonderful Counselor".
The Hebrew word translated "wonderful" in this verse signifies something indescribably great; something so tremendous, so amazing, that it’s literally beyond description. Something that transcends human experience or imagination. So when the Scriptures refer to Jesus as a "wonderful" counselor, it doesn’t just mean that he’s good at giving advice. It means that he understands things which are beyond the ability of our finite minds to comprehend. He knows things which only God can know. He knows the ways of God; He understands God’s plans and purposes. His knowledge, and intelligence, and wisdom, and insight far exceed that of any man who ever lived. So in Jesus Christ, we have someone who, by virtue of his great knowledge and understanding, is abundantly qualified to guide and direct our lives. Someone who is never confused or mistaken. Someone who always knows exactly what to do. Someone who will never lead us astray.
Why does this matter? Because I wonder if we really see Christ in this way; as a fully competent counselor, someone whose guidance is superior to any other. Do we really see him as someone who understands, better than anyone else, what life is all about? Do we believe him when he claims to be able to lead us into "abundant" life? Do we go to him first for assistance in dealing with our marriage, our children, our job? When we need help coming to terms with illness, or depression, or conflict? Yes, we know he’s the Son of God, and so we view him as omniscient, all-knowing. But when it comes to living our daily lives, do we really look to him for practical guidance? Do we study his teachings? Do we follow his example? Do we go to him in prayer? Or do we look first to the advice of our friends, our family, our co-workers; perhaps even someone we stood in line next to at the hardware store, or someone we saw on Oprah; and only as a last resort go to Christ?
Or how about this: Do we go first to the professionals and the experts and the authorities to help us with our problems, rather than to Christ? Do we assume that someone with a Ph.D. knows better how to help us than the Son of God? I’m not saying we should never seek help from other people, or that no one should ever see a professional counselor. What I’m saying is that we should view other sources of help as secondary, not primary. Ideally, any counselor we consult will see their job as helping us to understand and apply the wisdom of Christ in our lives. If not, then at best their counsel will be incomplete. It may be good advice as far as it goes, but it’s going to be inferior to the teachings and example of Christ. Why? Because Jesus of Nazareth is simply the wisest man who ever lived. Wiser than Buddha, or Confucius, or Ghandi, or the Dali Lama, or Freud, or Jung. He’s the only person who has ever lived a completely authentic human life, the kind of life that God intended for us to live. He’s the only one who truly understands how life works.