“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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
WHEN one thinks of Christmas what often comes to mind are the tender and innocent images of the baby Jesus in Mary’s arms. As endearing as such images may be, they do not come close to capturing the significance of the child promised in the above passage.
This is no sentimental reference to a cuddly child, but the arrival of a prince destined to be the catalyst of an insurrection powerful enough to liberate Israel from its subjugation and inaugurate a kingdom of peace and prosperity that would know no borders.
Isaiah’s prophecy came at a dark time in Israel’s history. God had hidden “his face from Israel” because of its idolatry and wickedness. Isaiah, however, pierced the gloom with the promise of a saviour; a prince who would liberate Israel and usher in peace and prosperity.
With the giving of this son, Israel’s exile ends even as God’s sovereign rule is restored.
His name conveys the nature of that rule. The name “Wonderful Counsellor” resonates with divine overtones. It weds God’s judgment and redemption to His divine wisdom. The Messianic hope was for a great teacher of wisdom who would teach with the authority and power of the Spirit of God.
This teacher would instruct Israel and lead the nation in righteousness. Such instruction would shatter forever the dreadful cycle of sin, judgment, defeat and exile that had bedevilled Israel from its foundation.
Anointed with the power of the Spirit of God, the Saviour would etch the love of God and obedience to the covenant deep into the heart of His people that they would never again turn away from their Saviour and Lord.
The name “Mighty God” refers to the source of this son’s mighty power as well as His unique identity. Here is the promised sovereign in the line of David, yet more than David. Certainly this child’s name suggests power and might of the expected Davidic king, yet the name invokes the identity of God Himself.
This fusion of God’s wisdom and power in a single figure helps us to understand why the New Testament writers saw in Jesus one who carried the mantle of man and God.
The two outstanding characteristics of Jesus’ life and ministry were His teaching and His marvellous works. He was a man full of the Spirit of God and performed mighty miracles. He instructed Israel in the way of righteousness. He acted as one who had authority over the Temple in Jerusalem.
Thus, the conclusion of the Gospels is that Jesus was the awaited messiah. Though some might doubt His identity, there could be no denying that His words and actions suggested no other character understandable to the Jews.
The last two names in this passage embody the accomplishments of this Son. As the “father of eternity,” the Son administers the care of the Heavenly Father. He gathers His people to Him to exercise His love and compassion.
Through the Son, the filial harmony and fellowship between God and His people are restored. Isolation comes to an end and covenantal fellowship is restored.
Once again, the name has divine implications. As “everlasting Father”, the Saviour is tied to the creator of heaven and earth. Hence, this title is not temporary, but extends from the foundations of the world to its final judgment.
Again one can hear the later echoes of Paul when in Colossians he refers to Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” or in Revelation where the risen Christ is referred to as the “Alpha and Omega”: the beginning and the end. In this child, God has taken on flesh to bring about the salvation of His people by His own hand.
FINALLY, He is referred to as the “Prince of Peace”. Accordingly, this Son will not merely ensure the absence of war, but bring creation to completeness, wholeness, harmony and fulfilment. As the “Prince of Peace” the Saviour brings heaven and earth together in peace under the reign of God. Once again, the echoes of Isaiah’s prophecy are resonated in the words of Paul who proclaims that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.
All this should remind us that the celebration of Christmas is so much more than sappy sentimentality and that at this time we worship more than the preciousness of little children and babies. No, the gift of a child is not in His childishness, but what He represents to a people dwelling in darkness. Jesus is the light of the world that pierces our gloom, whose birth announced our transference from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. In the Christ child, the wisdom of God and the power of God have become flesh. In Him we are restored to our heavenly Father and in Him the world will finally realise its peace.
The Rev Dr Thomas Harvey, a lecturer at Trinity Theological College, works with the Presbyterian Church as a Partner in Mission from the Presbyterian Church (USA).
HEAVEN AND EARTH IN PEACE
‘He is referred to as the “Prince of Peace”. Accordingly, this Son will not merely ensure the absence of war, but bring creation to completeness, wholeness, harmony and fulfilment. As the “Prince of Peace” the Saviour brings heaven and earth together in peace under the reign of God.’