“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
These verses are packed, and so I want to split them in two, covering half today and half tomorrow. Today we will look at the child who is born and the titles given to him. Tomorrow we will look at what he does and the kingdom he builds.
In many of the promises we have looked at so far, there is a “now but not now” theme to them. That is, there is a sense in which there is some kind of immediate, yet partial fulfilment – for example Solomon building God’s House, before his dramatic fall – but with the expectation of a much greater and more complete fulfilment to come. The prophecy in these verses appears to be quite different, and there is no sense of any immediate fulfilment. Despite some extremely strained attempts by Jewish scholars to ascribe fulfilment of the promise to Hezekiah, he simply doesn’t fit (amongst other reasons, he was already born at the time of this promise, and secondly there is simply no way it could be said of his kingship that, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end”).
So the promise can only be fulfilled by one person – Jesus Christ – but to see this more clearly, let’s look at the titles that are given to the promised child, and then look at how they apply to him.
At the start of Judges 13, we read this:
“There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.’” (Judges 13:2-3)
Here we have another of the Bible’s “barren woman” themes, and once again God announces that the woman – in this case Manoah’s wife – is going to have a son – Samson – who will be a saviour or judge in Israel, to deliver them from their enemies.
When the angel of the Lord (Yahweh’s messenger) appears to her for the second time, she is with her husband, where we read the following exchange:
“What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honour you?” And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is Wonderful?”
Later, when Manoah and his wife see the angel of the Lord go up in the flame of the altar they have built, they “fall on their faces to the ground.” In other words, it is clear to them that this was God himself. And so Isaiah uses the name Wonderful to convey the same message: A Child shall be born, a Son shall be given who shall deliver Israel, but this time it will be God himself.
Proverbs 11:4 tells us that “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.” Proverbs 24:6 says “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counsellors there is victory.” In other words, a counsellor in the Bible is one of the Wise; someone imbued with understanding who uses their wisdom to guide and advise, especially in times of trouble.
There is a problem in Isaiah’s day, however. In chapter 1, we read that God promises to “restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as at the beginning.” The implication being that at that time there were few, if any, counsellors.
Israel is therefore in dire need of wise counsellors. However, ultimately its need is not just for counsellors who have acquired wisdom, but rather it needs The Counsellor – one who is wisdom itself. According to Isaiah, a Child shall be born, and a Son shall be given who will be that man.
The term Mighty God suggests a God who is strong and can do all things. We first encounter the term in Genesis 49:24, when Jacob gives his blessing to his faithful son, Joseph: “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob, from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel”.
The term also indicates that this is the one true God of heaven and earth who spoke all things into being. As the first verse of Psalm 50 says: “The Mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof”.
Isaiah is therefore telling us that the Child who shall be born, the Son that will be given is the God who created the heavens and the earth, and for whom nothing is impossible.
The word everlasting is mostly associated in the Old Testament with God’s covenant with Abraham. This especially comes out when the covenant is given in Genesis 17. For instance, “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7).
However, these verses do not just hint at an everlasting covenant, but also at the fact that God is the father of that covenant, and therefore of both Abraham and his offspring. This is seen in a number of places in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), sometimes implicitly – “You shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son’” (Exodus 4:22) – but on one occasion quite explicitly – “Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (Deuteronomy 32:6).
Given this, I think the term Everlasting Father is not so much a reference to the first person of the Trinity, but more a covenantal and personal name for the father of the everlasting covenant made with Abraham. Isaiah is – I think – telling us that the Child who shall be born, the Son who will be given is the one who not only proclaimed the everlasting covenant to Abraham, but undertook to be the paternal provider and protector of Israel, loving them as the apple of his eye.
Prince of Peace
In chapter 14 of Genesis, after Abram has fought to successfully rescue Lot from captivity, we read of the somewhat mysterious character, Melchizedek, who goes out to meet Abram after the battle bringing with him bread and wine. His name means King of Righteousness, and he is said to be the King of Salem – peace. He is therefore both the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace.
The place where he is king later becomes the capital city of Israel – Jeru-Salem (“City of Peace” or “Foundation of Peace”) –, which is where the throne of David is established. However, as we saw on Day 13, David is not the one to build the House of God, because he has “shed much blood and waged great wars” (1 Chronicles 22:8), and the task was instead given to David’s son, Solomon, whose name means peaceable one. David himself tells his son what God had said to him:
“Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 22:9-10).
In both these examples, we have the idea of one who comes from the City of Peace to bring rest after warfare. However, as we have seen, whilst Solomon partially fulfilled the promise, building the House of God in the City of Peace, when his kingship failed, the faithful Israelites were left looking for God to raise up another bringer of peace after warfare. And so Isaiah tells us that the Child who shall be born, the Son who will be given will himself be the Prince of Peace, ruling on the throne of David from the City of Peace – Jerusalem.
So how are these names fulfilled in Jesus?
He is Wonderful
Just as the angel of the Lord – God himself – appeared to the wife of Manoah to announce the birth of a Saviour, and then to Manoah himself to confirm the promise, so a created angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appeared first to Mary and then to Joseph to confirm the birth of The Saviour – the same God who appeared to Manoah and his wife and whose name is Wonderful: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
He is The Counsellor
Solomon’s wisdom was not derived from himself, but was gifted to him by God. Yet with Jesus, not only is he filled with wisdom, he is wisdom itself. And so Paul in Colossians describes him as the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
He is The Mighty God
Jesus is no mere man, but fully God. According to Paul:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16).
And because he is fully God, he is also almighty:
“Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marvelled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (Matthew 8:26-27).
He is the Everlasting Father
As stated above, I think this title is probably more to do with being the father of the everlasting covenant, than a claim to oneness with the first person of the Trinity (although of course that is true, as according to Jesus, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)).
In John 8, the Pharisees and the scribes claim that “Abraham is our father.” A little later John records this discourse:
“’Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’” So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:56-59).
What claim is he making? He is of course making the claim to divinity, yet he is also making another point: Although Abraham is indeed their father, Jesus says he predates Abraham and it was he himself who spoke to Abraham to make the everlasting covenant with him and his offspring. In other words, the father of the everlasting covenant is Jesus himself.
He is the Prince of Peace
Just as the King of Salem, Melchizedek, brought peace and rest to Abram after his warfare, symbolised by bread and wine, so too does Jesus – who is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17) – bring peace and rest after spiritual warfare, along with bread and wine at his table. Just as Solomon (while he obeyed God) was the herald of rest and peace, so Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, heralding the gospel in which God and man can be reconciled: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). And just as both Melchizedek and Solomon reigned from the City of Peace, so too does Jesus – from the heavenly Jerusalem “which is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26), and from where as the Prince of Peace he is able to grant – through the Spirit – “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).