That Name: Wonderful Counselor
How many of you consider yourself to be a patriotic American? Ok, that’s most of you. And I’d raise my hand too. I love this country . . . but you’ll have to admit that sometimes we outsmart ourselves. Sometimes we’re a whole lot smart and not very wise.
For instance consider some of these things that happen “only in America:” You see it’s:
1. Only in America . . . can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
2. Only in America . . are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
3. Only in America . . . do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
4. Only in America . . . do people order double cheese burgers, large fries and a diet coke.
5. Only in America . . . do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counter.
6. Only in America . . . . do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our junk in the garage. Hello...
7. Only in America . . . .do we use answering machines to screen calls and have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.
8. Only in America . . .do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
9. Only in America . . . do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering
10. Only in America . . .do we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: 'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'.
Yes, it’s true, isn’t it. Sometimes we are a whole lot smart and not very wise. This whole wisdom thing can be tricky. We all feel the need for it, but it often seems pretty illusive. And because we lack wisdom, we find ourselves in the middle of a big mess.
I suppose that all of us can look back on things that happened to us in our lives and see how foolish we were. I sure can. I remember the early 80's. Kathy and I were newly married without a lot of income, but we were absolutely determined to own a home. Let me rephrase: She wasn’t that thrilled. It was me who wanted to be a home owner.
There was only one problem. I didn’t have a penny saved, houses in Nashville, Tn were expensive, and interest rates were running about 12-13%. But then came the deal of a life time. Now I know that’s what it was because my real estate agent told me that. Ok, he didn’t say that, exactly, but I was so anxious to buy that I read that into everything he told me. And to make matters even worse, I used the guy selling me the house as my primary source of wisdom. That’s never a good idea. I never asked why the previous owner had let it go into repossession. To put it mildly, I probably didn’t make a very wise decision.
If I didn’t realize my folly when I signed the papers for the home, it didn’t take me long to realize how foolish I had been. I discovered what I had purchased really wasn’t a house . . . it was a houseboat. Everytime it rained I had lakefront property, only the lake wasn’t at the front, it was all around the house. I made a poor decision because I lacked wisdom, and I really didn’t look for it in the right place.
And, while I haven’t bought any houseboats lately, I have to tell you, I still need wisdom. There are still times when I look at certain issues and wonder what is right and what is wrong. Whenever I face a major life decision that will impact my life and the life of my family, it is often that I just don’t know what to do. Quite honestly there are some decisions about this church that make me scratch my head! I often pray, “God, please show me what to do?”
You ever feel that way? Maybe you’re a husband and you know that you should be spending more time with your family and your kids, but your job is calling and you need more money. Your willingness to work overtime increases your value to the company and helps to secure the job that puts food on your table, but the increased time at works takes you away from those very people you’re trying to provide for. How do you balance all of that out? Where to you draw the line? What’s the wisest thing to do?
Maybe you’re a wife. You know that children do better if their mom stays in the home, especially when they are very young, and, in your heart of hearts, that’s where you really want to be, but the house payment needs to be payed, and those credit card bills keep coming. If you quit, you’re afraid you’ll never find another job when the kids get older. What do you do? How do you determine what’s right? What’s the wisest thing to do.
Or you could be a teenager, and you’re confused. Now you’d never admit it, because you want everyone to think that you pretty much know everything, but the truth is that you’re really confused. Your teacher tells you one thing is true, your parents tell you something else, and then Brad comes along and tells you that they’re both wrong. How do you decide? How can you balance things out?
Or maybe your parents want you to go to Barton because it will be much cheaper if you live at home. You know you need to save as much money as possible, but there’s a part of your heart that’s telling you that God wants you to go to the Bible College or Liberty. In fact, you’re not sure, but God may be calling you into ministry. How do you know what to do? What’s the wisest thing you can do?
And it could be that, as a single mom, you don’t know what’s right. Your son needs the influence of his father, but whenever he goes to see his dad, Dad’s new girlfriend is there and she stays overnight. You want your son to see his father, but you are afraid of the influence this situation is having on him. What do you do? What is the wisest thing?
Now some would say, “Just read your Bible. God’s word has all the answers to the questions of life.” Well, I would agree that the Bible is the best place to start, but dilemmas like this just aren’t directly addressed. In fact, some of the principles you find might even seem to contradict one another.
For instance, if you’re a teenager heading off to college, the Bible makes it clear that you are still under your parents’ authority and should obey them. On the other hand, you also know that you are to obey God’s will for your life. Both of these are Biblical principles. How do you decide what’s right?
Well, that question is answered in one of my favorite Christmas passages of Scripture. It’s in Isaiah 9. Read with me beginning in v 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, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Now I really want to focus in on that first name. If your Bible is like mine, there is a comma between “Wonderful” and “Counselor,” indicating that the two words are distinct. Truth is, however, that they really aren’t. They belong together. What Isaiah is saying is that Jesus is a “wonderful counselor.”
In the first place, he is wonderful. Actually the text says he is a “wonder” since the form of the Hebrew word is a noun, not an adjective. The word “wonder” is filled with meaning. It is translated “marvelous” in Psalm 78:12 where it says, “Marvelous things did He in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.” That psalm describes all the wonderful things God did when He took Israel thorugh the Red Sea and led them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. It describes the way God fed them and gave them water from a rock. It is this word that Isaiah applies to Christ. He says He is wonderful.
But notice, he doesn’t just call Him a wonderful deliverer. He doesn’t call Him a wonderful healer. He doesn’t call Him a wonderful theologian, or a wonderful preacher. He calls Jesus a wonderful what? That’s right! A wonderful counselor. Why do you think Isaiah chooses this word?
Well, I think it was because, if Israel needed one thing more than anything else, perhaps, it was wisdom. O many of their leaders had tried to give them wisdom and, you have to admit, some of them were very shrewd.
For instance, Jacob was so smart and shrewd that his name meant “supplanter” or “one who uses his wits to take advantage of someone else. He was slick but he wasn’t wise. His shrewdness banished him from his family and ruined his relationship with his brother.
Moses tried to bring wisdom to Israelites. He did well. He became the leader and was there when God hand-wrote the perfect ten. But even though God used him to tell us His laws, even Moses wasn’t very wise at times. When it really counted, he lost his cool, brought dishonor to God, and died on the side of a mountain never making it to the promised land.
And then there was David. He is often called “the Sweet Psalmist of Israel.” I was David who became the second King of Israel and ruled with such authority, power, and wisdom that everybody loved him. But in a moment of fleshly indulgence, he acted very foolishly, committed adultery, then murdered Bathsheeba’s husband to cover it up.
Then came Solomon. It was Solomon who, when God asked Him what he wanted, requested wisdom from God, and God gave it to Him! Just read a little of the Proverbs and you’ll discover a rich reservoir of wisdom that is unmatched. He was the smartest man who ever lived, so smart, in fact, that when the Queen of Sheba came to see if all the stories she’d heard of him were true, she said, “the half was not told me.”
But even Solomon foolishly took hundreds of wives who stole away his heart and turned the wisest man who ever lived into an idolatrous fool.
And by the time Isaiah arrived on the scene, the folly of Israel had led them from one king to another and from one idol to another until Isaiah is told by God,
Earthly wisemen will fail. Powerful kings will fall short. Shrewd schemers just won’t cut it. Unto you a Child will be born and a Son will be given. And the government will rest on His shoulders and He’s going to have a name that is like no other: You’re going to call Him a ‘wonder of a counselor’.
And that, by the way, is just what Jesus was! He was imminently wise before he ever became an adult. Even at the tender age of 12, the sages of Jerusalem were blown away by His answers. Luke tells us that
they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
Even then, he was a wonder of a counselor. And it really didn’t matter who you were. Whether you were an egg-head of a Pharisee or just a common man, the wisdom of this wonder impressed you. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus, even the riff-raff of Capernaum were awestruck. When Jesus cast an evil spirit out of a man in the Synagogue, the Bible says:
Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
To the commoner, he was a wonder of a counselor.
And He even blew away His enemies. When the Chief Priests and Scribes concluded that they had to shut Jesus up, they sent some of their best soldiers with strict orders to capture Him and bring Him in. Yet, when the officers returned they were empty handed. Of course, those Priests and Scribes weren’t used to being contradicted by the peons in their command, so when those poor soldiers show up without Jesus, the rulers ask them, “Why have you not brought Him?” I’m sure they probably thought they’d hear them say, “Well, He called down fire and defeated us,” or “He’s such a magician, He made Himself invisible.” But what did those soldiers say? They said, “No man ever spoke like this man.” Even to His enemies, He was a wonder of a counselor.
And if He was a wonder to his enemies, certainly He was to His friends. Two of them were walking down the road after Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus joins them, but they don’t recognize Who He is. He asks them what they’re talking about and they tell Him all about what happened to Jesus. Then Jesus, the Bible says, starts at Moses and uses the Old Testament Scriptures to show them who He is. And my favorite part of the story happens when those two disciples realize who Jesus is, He leaves them, and they say:
And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
Even when His friends didn’t know Who He was, He was still a wonder of a counselor.
It was nearing Christmas, and a pastor received a phone call from a man who needed to talk to a counselor. The man came to the church office, where he told his tale of woe. A decade earlier, he killed his wife in a fit of anger, was convicted of manslaughter, and spent several years in prison. He and his wife had a daughter who was in the custody of his in-laws. He had not seen her since the crime, and now, as Christmas neared, his heart ached. Tears streaming down his face, he lamented, "I could pass her on the streets of this city and not even know who she was."
It was an emotionally charged session that was heavy with regret, but the power of that moment was not what the pastor remembered. What he remembered most about the counseling session, however, was what the man said when he first walked into the office. Dramatically raising his arms he had said, "Now, preacher, let's just leave Jesus out of this, okay?"
As he sadly went his way that day, the pastor thought to himself, That's the whole problem. You've left Jesus out.
YOU - APPLICATION
And his problem is so often our problem: We leave Jesus out. We have all kinds of problems for which we need solutions, but we refuse to turn to the Wonderful Counselor. John MacArthur writes:
It is significant that one of the biblical names of Christ is Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6). He is the highest and ultimate One to whom we may turn for counsel, and His Word is the well from which we may draw divine wisdom. What could be more wonderful than that? In fact, one of the most glorious aspects of Christ’s perfect sufficiency is the wonderful counsel and great wisdom He supplies in our times of despair, confusion, fear, anxiety, and sorrow. He is the quintessential Counselor.
The church has looked to psychology to fill the gap. That has led us often to dead ends. Psychology tends to make people dependent on a therapist, whereas godly wisdom leads them back to an all-sufficient savior and his all-sufficient word.
Someone might be saying, “Yeah, yeah, Rusty, that all sounds real good but it really doesn’t offer me much of an answer. Best I can tell, Jesus hasn’t hung a shingle or opened a psychology practice in town. How am I supposed to get any counsel from Him? I can’t really talk to Him, and I sure can’t hear Him saying anything to me. How can an invisible being be a “wonder of a counselor?”
Good question, but there really is an answer. In the first place, this wonderful counselor is a great listener, so you can tell Him your issues. That’s what prayer is all about. Some people see prayer as some mumbo-jumbo you mumble when the music stops at church. O, it’s a whole lot more than that! Prayer is talking to directly to God. You don’t have to have a priest and everything you tell Him will be kept in the strictest confidence. Some of us really need that right now. We need one of those hour-long sessions of prayer where we just let it all hang out. Some of us are facing dire circumstances and the burden of worry has been building and building, sleep has been non-existent and we’re losing weight because we can’t eat. I tell you, take that burden to the Lord, He’s a great listener. It’s like that old hymn says:
Are you weary, are you heavy hearted, tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
Are you grieving over joys departed, tell it to Jesus alone
Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus, He is a friend that’s well-known
You have no other such a friend or brother, tell it to Jesus alone.
You see, He’s a great listener, so you can tell Him your issues. But secondly, He’s a problem solver, so you should listen for His advice. Now I know you might be saying, “Well, I can kind of get the first one, but this one I don’t. How can Jesus tell me anything, He’s not there for me to listen to. Well Jesus answered this question, Himself. When He was preparing His disciples for His death and His ascension, He told them that the Holy Spirit would come to guide them. He said:
. . . when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
That’s it! The Holy Spirit of God takes the Word of God and shows the believer what God has for him. Here’s the way it works: As I study God’s Word and as I, day in and day out, let His truth influence my thinking, I begin to think biblically. Then, whenever some problem or issue comes up, the Holy Spirit brings back to my mind the Word of God and gives me the answer that I need. Which just means that I must be a student of the Word of God, if I am to really connect with the Wonderful Counselor.
But I saved the most important one till last. You see, not only is this Wonderful Counselor a great listener, so you can tell Him your issues and a great problem solver, so you should listen to His advice. This Wonderful Counselor is great Savior, so you can take Him your sin. You know, you might find an earthly counselor who’s a good listener, and you might even find one who can offer you some decent advice, but you’ll never find an earthly counselor who can do anything about your sin.
And by the way, that’s the real problem all of us are dealing with anyway. Even psychologists are admitting it. Consider what researcher O. Hobart Mowrer of the University of Illinois said. He said:
We psychologists." Mowrer said, ""have largely followed the Freudian doctrine that human beings become emotionally disturbed, not because of their having done anything palpably wrong, but because they instead lack insight. We have set out to oppose the forces of repression and to work for understanding. [This leads to] the discovery that the patient or client has been, in effect, too good, that he has within him impulses. especially those of lust and hostility, which he has been unnecessarily inhibiting. And health, we tell him, lies in recognizing and expressing these impulses. As a result, not only have we disavowed the connection between manifest misconduct and psychopathology, we have also very largely abandoned belief in right and wrong, virtue and sin.' The idea that man can have the benefits of an orderly social life, without paying for it through restraints and sacrifices, is ‘a subversive doctrine.’
Well, if sin is the problem, psychology isn’t the answer! You see, we might need to restrain ourselves, but whenever we try to do it, we find it ultimately impossible. The only answer to the sin problem comes from the Wonderful Counselor. He developed His therapy not on a counselor’s couch but on a crucifier’s cross. He doesn’t just repress your sin, or help you forget your sin, or even deny your sin, He actually forgives your sin. He takes the guilt away and makes you just like you’d never ever done anything wrong. And that’s not all. Through the power of His death and His resurrection, He infuses you with power so that if you’re an alcoholic, you can stop drinking; if you’re a drug addict, you can stop using; if you’re pedaphile, you can stop abusing; if you’re an abuser, you can stop hitting; if you’re liar, you can stop lying; if you’re a thief, you can stop stealing. He’s the one who doesn’t just comfort your pain, HE SETS YOU FREE! He’s a WONDER OF A COUNSELOR!
Millions have seen Nick Ut's Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc (pronounced "fuke"). On June 8, 1972, a napalm bomb was dropped on her village. Phuc, who was just nine-years-old at the time, ran crying from her hiding place in the village temple in Vietnam. Ut's picture shows Phuc's arms outstretched in terror and pain, skin flapping from her legs as she cried, "Nong qua! Nong qua!" ("Too hot! Too hot!").
Doctors said Kim would not survive, but after 14 months in the hospital—and 17 surgeries—she returned to her family. Despite the miraculous recovery, however, Kim was seldom free from pain and nightmares—and anger.
"The anger inside me was like a hatred high as a mountain," said Kim, "and my bitterness was black as old coffee. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal, because I was not normal. I wanted to die many times. Doctors helped heal my wounds, but they couldn't heal my heart."
But then she met the Wonderful Counselor. While spending time in a library, Kim found a Bible and began reading the New Testament.
"The more I read, the more I felt confused," said Kim. "I wondered which was true—my religion or the Bible."
Kim's brother-in-law had a friend who was a Christian, so she arranged to see him with her list of questions. After they talked, the friend invited Kim to visit his church for a Christmas service. The end of the service was a turning point in Kim's life. "I could not wait to trust the Lord," Kim said. "[Jesus] helped me learn to forgive my enemies, and I finally had some peace in my heart. Now when I look at my scars or suffer pain, I'm thankful the Lord put his mark on my body to remind me that he is with me all the time."
I want you to know that Christ can do for you what no earthly counselor can do. You may be angry at some injustice; you may be disappointed by your own failure; you may be enslaved by your own desires. I don’t know what your issue is, but I do know the answer:
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!