THE WONDER OF IT ALL
We interrupt our weekly blog article with a very special announcement: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9: 6-7).
This magnificent prophecy from the Old Testament book of Isaiah promised Israel and all people of the earth that the Messiah would come to this earth as a baby … a child is born to us. That he would be given to the human race by his Father … a son is given to us. We sing about him, “What child is this….” What makes this child so exceptional, so exclusive, so incomparable, so one-of-a kind?
First, this awesome child was born to us; this son was given to us. That means the whole world. Unlike any other child ever born, this child belongs to every person who has ever lived on the earth. In order to be the Son of Man (for all mankind) this child was not conceived by a biological father; rather he was conceived by the Holy Spirit to a virgin named Mary. Thus, the child began as a miracle and the miracle of his birth, death, and resurrection continues to this very day.
Next, the Father who gives this (his) Son is none other than, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies” also translated, “The Lord of Hosts.” The title in Hebrew is: Adonai Tzva’ot. Why do we know that this special child was a real person, a human being as opposed to an angel or just a spirit? Because he was to be born … meaning through natural childbirth of a woman. Why do we know this son is also divine? Because he will be called (given the name and all the attributes that go with that name), Mighty God and Everlasting Father.
But we also see that this child will be called Wonderful Counselor, which is further proof of his divine origin and nature. You might ask how the term Wonderful Counselor confirms the child/son to be divine.
As one line from a popular Christmas song goes, “What a wonderful time of the year.” We’ve all used the word wonderful, and we all have a pretty good idea of what it means. But I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary just to reinforce its meaning. Webster’s defines wonderful as, “Exciting wonder, marvelous, astonishing, unusually good …” The shorter version of wonderful is wonder or wondrous which is defined as, “exciting amazement or admiration” and “effective … far beyond anything previously known or anticipated.”
A Wonderful Wonder
Wonderful and wondrous are adjectives that modify and enrich the description of a very special person, place, or thing. What time of the year is this? It’s a wonderful time…. But the word wonder is also a noun (more often used) which means, “cause of astonishment, rapt attention at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.” Such as the Seven Wonders of the World.
In this passage from Isaiah, the Hebrew word translated wonderful in English means considerably more than just an enhanced description of the child … marvelous or astonishing. In the context of this stunning prophetic announcement, Wonderful (Counselor) combines the essence of both Wonder and Wonderful, (both adjective and noun); which results in an extraordinary fusion of the subject itself (the child) with the awesome majestic attributes that this Son will possess. Thus, as used in this passage and elsewhere in the Old Testament it conveys the supernatural (such as Judges 13:18). In fact, the Complete Jewish Bible renders the phrase: “Wonder of a Counselor.” Can you see the remarkable synthesis of Wonder and Wonderful? It could also be expressed as, A Wonderful Wonder! Moreover, the context clearly refers to the Messiah. Who else could the child be?
And this Messiah is both man (natural birth but from a supernatural conception) and God (Mighty God … a term applied to the original name of God (YHWH … Yahweh) as first given to Moses. Then the name, Everlasting Father, says it all. It’s the same concept as contained in another name for both God and Messiah: Alpha & Omega, or The Beginning and the End.
And not to forget Prince of Peace. Same thing with this wonderful title: in Hebrew the term is Sar-Shalom. The underlying meaning is one (the only One) who is capable of bringing true peace, justice, wholeness, and well-being to a troubled, war-torn, desperate, hopeless, and helpless world. And this world-wide peace will be established through a government that will, “rest on his (Messiah’s) shoulders.” It will be a government that, “will never end.” For any government to rest on one man’s shoulders and continue forever, requires that the “man” himself must live forever, which of course he will because he is the “Everlasting Father.”
The Jewish People & the Jewish Messiah
Most Jews are passionately awaiting Messiah’s first appearance, particularly the observant Jews and Rabbis (meaning those who to some degree or another still observe and adhere to the Law of Moses). Although there are thousands of Jews world-wide who believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Son of David) the vast majority of Jews do not. Moreover, most Jewish Rabbis do not believe that the Messiah will be of divine origin. Although the Messiah will be appointed (empowered) by God, he will not be the Son of God, nor possess divine attributes that belong to God alone. For the most part this stems from the long-standing belief that God is One (which he is, meaning the one and only true God); but that he is not a triune God (three in One), and that he certainly doesn’t have a Son nor ever will.
But if so, then what does one do with this spectacular passage from Isaiah Chapter 9? Or how can the following passage be understood unless a Jew (or Gentile) comes to grip with the reality of what is being said: “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one” (Psalms 2:2, italics for emphasis). “For the Lord declares, ‘I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem … The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father’” (Psalms 2:7, italics for emphasis). And to put an emphatic exclamation point on this magnificent passage, “Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry…” (Verse 12).
Notice the personal pronouns and the distinction between God and a king, who is the one whom God refers to as his Son. Whose son? God’s son, because it says “You (Messiah) are my (God the Father’s) son. Today I (God the Father) have become your (Messiah, the son’s) Father.” To be sure, there are some Old Testament passages that metaphorically refer to Israel as God’s son or daughter or wife; but never as a King or as God’s “Royal Son, as Psalms Chapter 2 does. There’s no way the personal pronouns or the contextual reference points can be stretched to include Israel in this passage, or in Isaiah Chapter 53, or in other Messianic prophecies.
Another startling passage: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet’” (Psalms 110:1). Then later in this chapter, “The Lord will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem … you are arrayed in holy garments … You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” (See Genesis Chapter 14 and Hebrews Chapter 7 for the fascinating description of Melchizedek).
Here King David is making some amazing observations and connections. He is relaying to us what God (The Lord) is saying to another Lord; that this other Lord is “my Lord” (meaning David’s Lord). That this other Lord will be given a powerful kingdom (meaning he is a King), but that he will also be arrayed in holy garments (that only the High Priest could wear—see Leviticus) and that he will, in fact, be a (High) Priest forever. Only two people in all of history were qualified to be both King and High Priest, Melchizedek and the Messiah. But only Messiah will sit at the right hand of God and only the Messiah will save the Jews (and Gentiles) from their sins. See the entire 53rd Chapter of Isaiah, but here just one verse will be referenced.
In fact, I’m going to quote from the Bible translation into English by David H. Stern, a superb Jewish scholar who was raised in the Jewish religion by Jewish parents, but came to faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, at the age of thirty-seven. “After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction. By his knowing (pain and suffering), my righteous servant makes many righteous; it is for their sins that he suffers” (Isaiah 53:11, Complete Jewish Bible).
In Isaiah Chapter 9 we have the unique fusion of adjective and noun that declares the Messiah to be both Wonderful and a Wonder. Then we have another incredible synthesis with Messiah Jesus as both the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) and our, “…eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:20). Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year to offer a sacrificial lamb for the sins of Israel. So Jesus is both the subject (High Priest) and object (Lamb of God) of salvation. When Christ willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty for our sins he was the (sinless) High Priest who administered the sacrifice and he was also the (perfect) sacrifice itself. That is utterly amazing!
Other Old Testament passages ascribe divinity both directly and indirectly to Messiah. And, of course, the entire New Testament provides historical and theological evidence to demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth is the very Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets. There are dozens of examples (we don’t have time/space to delve into them) showing iron-clad connections and correlations between the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah and New Testament fulfillment of those predictions in the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lest you think that non-constructively I’m faulting or criticizing the Jews for not recognizing who Messiah is in their own Scriptures, I am not. I love Israel and I love the Jewish people. As I said in a very recent article, I fully understand that God’s salvation comes through the Jews. I love them because God loves them and God has promised in His word that one day the entire nation (remnant) of Israel will embrace Yeshua as their Messiah, the Royal Son of God.
Give and Take
For many the world-over, including Christians, Christmas and salvation and giving and joy are difficult to even think about in the midst of personal heartache and troubles. Whether from losing a job, losing someone we love dearly (even many years ago), not having enough to pay the bills or even enough to eat, broken relationships, health problems including terminal illness, or any number of other hardships, it’s so hard to believe that God really cares. But he does care … deeply. It’s just that we tend to forget that this world is fallen and (fatally) flawed, and many refuse to accept the reasons why this is such an imperfect world. Long ago, when the first man and woman exercised the freedom of choice that their Creator gave to them, they decided they didn’t need God and went their own way; and sin entered the world. With it came evil, disease, negligent accidents, war, injustice, poverty, pain, suffering, and death.
There are some who don’t even have the money to buy a Christmas gift, let alone a Christmas tree.
And still others wonder (in the sense of agonizing) why their child was “taken” from them, be it a tragic accident, an untimely illness, an act of violence, or in my case … loss of my six-week old son by crib death in 1975. But do we really know if God took them? If we’re not sure whether God took them, at the very least we usually think or say, “God could have prevented this. Why didn’t he? Where was he?”
It’s all too easy to stay at arm’s length from God and for all practical purposes not want God to “interfere” with our lives (for a multitude of reasons), but then to blame him when someone or something is taken from us. Or to accuse him of not preventing a tragedy when our entire life has been lived without seeking God and trusting in the “child born to us, the “son given to us.” For billions the world over, they want no part of a God who they think might prevent them from pursuing all the worldly pleasures (no matter who gets hurt) possible; yet when it comes to an unexpected misfortune in their life, finger-pointing at God is often the first reaction. Can we have it both ways? Can we with one side of our mouth say, “I want/need to do my own thing, so leave me alone God.” And on the other side, “Where were you God when my daughter died from leukemia?”
We intentionally or unintentionally fail to thank God for all the good things in life, but when it comes to the bad things our tendency is to say, “Why God? Why did this happen?” And this question is not always a plea for understanding or consolation; sometimes it’s an accusation and outright challenge that God would ever do such a thing. Are there answers to these questions? Many times, no. What could I possibly say to satisfy someone who asks me, “You seem to know the Bible pretty well … tell me why you think my baby died.” Thirty-eight years later, I still don’t fully understand why my infant child died in his crib. But I do know one thing with utmost certainty: If I had not accepted Jesus Christ as God’s only son “given to us” for salvation, I would never see my son again (and other loved ones in heaven) after I die.
Some things happen to us or others in life that we label tragedies. We do so because we see no purpose in or reason for it. Does God take things and people? Yes he does, but only sometimes … certainly not all the time. Is there a purpose for it? Yes, but the purpose belongs to God, even though we don’t always understand the reason for it. But sometimes we do know the reason, because the Bible and the circumstances show us the reason. Many times the reason is for the Lord to get someone’s attention, whether to show them salvation or correct (for Christians) certain destructive behavior. Can and does God prevent some harmful things from happening? Of course he does, but when and where he chooses, which gets back to his purpose and plan for the entire human race … for me and for you. Scripture is full of incidents and examples to confirm what I’m saying.
And then there are billions of people in the world who have no interest in Christmas whatsoever; because they don’t believe that the child was given to them also.
The True Gift That Keeps on Giving
From the beginning God decided to do something about this dreadful problem of sin and sorrow, of greed and grief, of arrogance and apathy that plagues the human race. He gave us a gift that could change our very destiny.
And so, we remember and hang on tightly to this wonderful wonder of a message in Isaiah and hundreds of other passages in Scripture that tell us about the Greatest Story ever told, the greatest Gift ever given: God’s very own Son. Jesus is the Son of God but he is also God the Son. God’s precious gift came to us wrapped in strips of cloth; not under a Christmas tree in a snug, cozy house, but in a lowly manger … a feeding trough for animals. And the child born to us grew to be a man who would later be wrapped in burial linen, having died a brutal death on a cross as the greatest sacrifice ever made for mankind. His death in exchange for the forgiveness of our sins and everlasting life in Heaven.
That’s why the Magi traveled hundreds of miles … to acknowledge this child as the Messiah, bow down before him, and to give him expensive gifts. They knew who he was. That’s why we light up our Christmas tree and our house; to recognize that Jesus is the light of the world. That’s why we laugh and smile and express our love for family and friends and give gifts to them: to remember the greatest gift ever given. That’s why we brim with as much anticipation and excitement watching our children, as they express while opening our gifts to them. Our hearts are filled with joy when they say, “Thanks Mom, Thanks Dad! This is what I’ve always wanted; it’s the best present ever!”
That’s why we hug our child, or spouse, or brother, or sister, or aunt, or grandma, or friend and say, “Thank you for such a wonderful gift.” That’s when we fully realize, “It’s better to give than to receive.” And that’s when tears of joy fill our eyes because we are overwhelmed by the thought of such great love. God created us; he knows us, he knows all about us: the wrong things we’ve done, our failures, and yet he loves us unconditionally. “Amazing love how can it be … that you my God would die for me.”
And in this age of God’s Grace that began when Christ came to this earth, did you know that there’s only one thing that God requires of us: To simply receive the gift because we trust both the Gift and the Giver, and respond in great wonder, “Thank you, Lord, I believe in you and what you did for me … you are so WONDERFUL!”
Jesus was given to us. His Father gave him and he gave himself. He is God’s gift to every man, woman, and child because there’s no other person or religion or system or way to God, except through Jesus sacrificial death on the cross. We don’t; in fact, we can’t DO anything to earn this gift. A gift is not a gift if it has to be earned. A gift is not a gift unless it is received. If we say “No thank you” to the giver then the gift is of no value to us.
The gift was already paid for in full … the shed blood of Christ. That’s what Jesus said as he died on the cross, “It is finished.” Meaning “paid in full.”
So then we remember: Jesus IS the reason for the season (and all seasons).
Whether we’re alone, or with someone, or with a whole houseful of relatives, we can say, “Happy Birthday Jesus. It’s all about YOU!”
And that’s the Wonder of it all.
Things to Ponder:
– “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
– “Joseph, son of David”, the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).