Advent Messages from Isaiah Concerning Our Savior's Name
Text: Isaiah 9:6
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, the Prince of Peace.
In Christ Jesus, whose precious name means for all who believe, dear fellow redeemed:
What is in a name? That depends upon the name. If I mention the name of your husband or wife, your son or daughter, your father or mother, I imagine that most of you would think of love and support. On the other hand, if I mention the name Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler, I imagine most of you would have far different thoughts. These men were responsible for the deaths of millions of people. While alive their names struck terror in the hearts of past generations. A person’s words and actions determine what we associate with that person, whether good or bad.
It is interesting to note that when we are confronted by fear, the very mention of a name can have a calming effect. During World War II, the name Winston Churchill inspired millions of Britons to persevere in the face of threatened Nazi invasions. Even so our God chose to inspire His Old Testament people during a period of crisis by citing the name of His promised Savior. A generation had passed since the situation I described in our first midweek Advent meditation. Wicked King Ahaz had perished as God had promised, as had his two enemies, the kings of Israel and Syria. Good King Hezekiah was now on the throne. Judah, however, was facing an even greater threat. The Assyrians had invaded Israel. The name of their king, Sennacherib, filled God’s people with dread. He and his armies were the most ruthless of ancient peoples. They took no prisoners, except those destined for sacrifice before the altars of their false gods. They had defeated one kingdom after another, and now they were besieging Jerusalem and boasting that it too would fall. They blasphemed God and urged the people of Jerusalem to reject King Hezekiah, who encouraged them to turn to the LORD. The people were frantic—their lives and those of their children were in jeopardy. What should they do? Where should they turn?
The LORD, who is our “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Psalm 46:1) responded by sending His prophet. Isaiah directed their hearts and minds to the promised Savior. Listen, dear friends, to this second ADVENT MESSAGE FROM ISAIAH—A MESSAGE CONCERNING OUR SAVIOR’S NAME! Apply it to your own lives and take comfort!
Yes, do so in a world where nations still go to war against each other; where parents and children still suffer and die and are ever so vulnerable. God announces to us through Isaiah, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Why should the announcement of a Child’s birth, however, instill confidence in the people of Isaiah’s day or in our hearts today? It would have been easy to say then, "We need a competent general, not a helpless child." It is easy today to say the same—we need an experienced leader, or official, or counselor—you name the title—to deal with the problems confronting us. A Child just will not do! Yet, let us recognize who this Child is—the Son of the living God, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9) and to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given (Matthew 28:18). This Child is Jesus, who “was rich (in power and glory, honor and privilege), yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Yes, this Child came to remove our vulnerability and replace it with His invulnerability. What grace!
Isaiah, however, says more: “The government will be upon His shoulder.” That Child, whose birth we will soon celebrate, was destined to become the Ruler of all. We read in Hebrews, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (2:14). Jesus confessed before Pilate that He was indeed a King, but that His kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). In a world where rulers so often oppress people rather than serve them, Jesus sets the example. He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Luther once wrote, "In the kingdoms of this world the prince or king alone is free, all others are servants. In Christ’s kingdom, Christ alone is a servant, and we are free!" (Luther’s Works, Volume 16:100ff.). What mercy!
It is at this point that God through Isaiah directs us to our Savior’s name: “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
Jesus Christ is “Wonderful.” In a world that is so limited by human failure (oh yes, we can identify all sorts of technical breakthroughs and achievements, yet we cannot live at peace with one another, not even at times with our spiritual brothers) Jesus Christ brings the wonder of the divine and miraculous! From the miracle of His birth, to the miracles He performed during His life on this earth, to the miracles He performs today, we see Jesus intervening in our lives and bringing about His distinct blessing. We cannot fully understand and comprehend our Savior, but that, my dear friends, should not disturb us. God rightly observes, “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Consequently, let us simply rejoice when our Savior intervenes in our lives and reveals His wonder. What excitement!
Jesus Christ is our “Counselor.” In a world of spin, where we see individuals, organizations, and nations attempting to manipulate people into believing, endorsing, and following their lead, came Jesus Christ. He reveals divine truth from our heavenly Father, which helps, heals, and motivates us to live selflessly, but rather selfishly. His word provides us with a solid basis for our lives—a basis, which is true and when lived will result in our blessing. What wisdom!
Jesus Christ is “Mighty God!” There are those who reject the deity of our Savior, but these words stand clear and decisive. Jesus claimed throughout His ministry to be the Son of God and worthy of the honor given the Father. In a world weakened by death, let us not debate the truth. Rather, let us embrace it and proclaim it with joy. We have a mighty Savior, who has delivered us from Satan and from death. We have a mighty Savior to help us overcome the challenges to our faith and in our lives each day. Jesus provides the strength and power we need, and He has promised to stand beside us. What might!
Jesus Christ is our “Everlasting Father!” Jesus is one with His heavenly Father, but He is not here claiming to be the Father. Rather this name means that Jesus is the “Father” or source of the “everlasting” for all believers. Jesus assures us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28). In a world brimming with the temporary and disposable, Jesus comes bringing permanence. He assures us that all who believe in Him will not perish, but rather will live with Him in God’s presence throughout eternity. What potential!
Finally, Jesus Christ is “the Prince of Peace!” In a world ruled by fear and the force of arms, where terrorists threaten and rogue nations abound, Jesus came and now rules. Yes, Jesus rules even in the midst of seeming chaos, bringing blessing into our lives. Among the chief of those blessings is the gift of peace. Jesus did not come to provide potential peace. No, Jesus came to bestow peace upon this earth—a peace between God and mankind. This peace is a present reality in view of His work. It is a peace we embrace by faith. It is a peace, which fosters peace among men. The Scriptures clearly tell us that there will be “wars and rumors of wars” until the end of time (Matthew 24:6), but we can and do live in peace and so can live with confidence. What joy! Amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting