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The Child Becomes A General


"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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace". (Isaiah 9:6-7)   Inevitably, Christian congregations will incorporate this passage into their Christmas services.  Much of Christendom throughout the centuries has applied the word "us" in this passage to the predominantly Gentile church, but that's not hermeneutically accurate.  In context, "us" refers to Israelis, not Gentiles. 


Note the word "for" that begins Isaiah 9:6.  "For unto us a child is bornů"  When you see the word "for" at the beginning of a sentence, it indicates that what follows is in reference to what was just written.  In this case, what was just written recounts a couple military losses that devastated parts of Israel.  In light of these military defeats, what follows in Isaiah 9:6 comes into play.  A certain child would be born; a certain son would be given.  He would rise to the most prominent place in government.  His kingdom would dominate all world powers and in the process He would free Israelis from their oppressors. 


Christians understand the one who rises to prominence to be the Lord Jesus Christ.  The words "child" and "son" in this verse are important because they speak to the very nature of Jesus.  The words "child is born" refer to Jesus' humanity.  That is to say, He was born as a human from a woman.  The words "son is given" refer to Jesus' eternal and divine nature.  Jesus already existed prior to His earthly appearance, when He was given to Israel by God His Father.  The words "child" and "son"  speak to what we call the "Deity of Christ".  The apostle Paul put it this way.  "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form". (Colossians 2:9)  Paul would agree with Isaiah when Isaiah calls Jesus the "Mighty God" in this passage. 


Isaiah goes on to call Jesus the "Wonderful Counselor".  Note that in the NIV, and also in other translations, there is no comma between the word "Wonderful" and the word "Counselor".  In this instance the word "Wonderful" is an adjective that modifies the noun "Counselor".  "Wonderful Counselor" thus means that the Counselor is a wonderful person. 


Many translators insert a comma between the word "Wonderful" and the word "Counselor" for at least two reasons.  In the Hebrew text, the word "Wonderful" is in fact a noun.  Also, there is no punctuation marks in Hebrew like periods and commas.  Translators insert punctuation into the English text based on their understanding of the passage.  An insertion of this little comma puts a different slant to the meaning of these two words in this phrase.  A comma placed after the word "Wonderful" would make the word "Wonderful" stand alone.  It would not modify or be connected to the word Counselor in any way.  Therefore, instead of the Counselor being a wonderful person, he is two things.  He is "Wonderful", and, He is also a "Counselor".  I lean towards this later scenario because it clearly describes the essence of Jesus as I will now explain.   


The Hebrew word "pele" that is translated as "Wonderful" means "beyond any capacity for us to wonder or even imagine".  The Hebrew word "ya'ats" that is translated as "Counselor" means one who  "commands or decrees".  These two Hebrew words tell us that the Lord Jesus Christ is Wonderful.  He is beyond our capacity to comprehend.  He is also the supreme Counselor or Commander of decrees.  He is the final authority over all there is.  His decrees cannot be challenged, changed, or cancelled.  They're not negotiable.  With the above definitions in mind, I believe I can safely say that Jesus is more than a "Wonderful Counselor".  He is indeed both "Wonderful" and a "Counselor".

Isaiah also calls Jesus the "Everlasting Father", or, more specifically, "the Father of eternity".  Here, Jesus the "son" is called the "Father".  The apostle John concurs when he says that Jesus "was with God and He was God". (John 1:1-2)   


Isaiah also calls Jesus "the Prince of Peace".  This doesn't mean that Jesus is a mild mannered, peace loving, flower-power, hippie.  Neither does it mean that He is a prince you might read about in a children's fairytale.  The Hebrew word translated as "Prince" is "sar".  "Sar" means "a leader, a commander, or as is often the case, a military general".  Jesus is the Prince of Peace because as the supreme general of the heavenly army, He will conquer and overthrow the enemies of Israel, resulting in peace for Israel and the world.  Peace doesn't just drop from the sky.  It's won by Jesus in the last great battle of the ages.  


We read Isaiah 9:6 and 7 every Christmas because we relate it to Jesus being born into this world in Bethlehem.  There's nothing wrong with this, but I suggest you understand the words "child is born" in the context of the whole chapter.  Isaiah 9:6 and 7 is more about General Jesus conquering the enemies of Israel than it is about Him being born in Bethlehem. 

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