The world is full of counsellors. Everywhere we turn, people are ready to grant advice and offer wisdom. Instruction in how we should live does not lack willing dispensers. It abounds, because crossroads abound. Our lives are full of grey areas, thin lines, and unchartered territories; moments and seasons where the wisdom that we relied on previously will not suffice. To live in this life is to learn. Therefore the question is not whether you have a counsellor but rather who it is. This is the question that was facing Judah in the time of Isaiah, which is part of the reason God promised to send a “Wonderful Counsellor” (Isaiah 9:6).
The question is not whether you have a counsellor but rather who it is.
This promise was couched in God’s criticism of his people. Facing a looming invasion from an alliance of Israel (the northern kingdom) and Syria, they wondered what they would do and what their future held. The prophet Isaiah watched in bewilderment as the people turned to “mediums and spiritists who chirp and mutter” (Isaiah 8:19). They sought counsel, but not the counsel of the Lord. Their King, Ahaz turned away from God for help.
It is against this backdrop that the prophet Isaiah prophesies of a King in the line of David. He will be called: Wonderful Counsellor.
Why A Counsellor?
Israel’s kings were expected to not only exercise his authority in ruling the people, but was also looked to as the source of guidance. It is for this reason that Solomon was initially praised. Earlier in Israel’s story the people “perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice (1 Kings 3:28). One prophet equates the loss of a king to the loss of counsel (Micah 4:9). Similarly, Isaiah phrases the promise of the coming King as a time when the counsellors shall be restored to God’s people (Isaiah 1:26).
God’s ruler would instruct his people, so that they wouldn’t need to look elsewhere for guidance.
With a king like Ahaz, it was easy to see why the people of Judah despaired. But a son was promised. He would be the Wonderful Counsellor. This ruler would instruct God’s people, so that they wouldn’t need to look elsewhere for guidance or instruction. God would not let his people languish in darkness and confusion.
Who Did God Send?
The way in which he would meet this need would not only be through the communication of words, conveyed by the prophets. Instead, his word would become incarnate. His wisdom, guidance, and instruction would come in the form of a person. Jesus is our Wonderful Counsellor.
God’s wisdom, guidance, and instruction would come in the form of a person.
This prophecy fits perfectly with the description of Christ in the New Testament. The New Testament teaches us that Jesus has the perfect understanding of people (John 2:25). In Jesus we find “all treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Because he knows and understands us perfectly, he is able to extend help to us (Hebrews 4:15-16). This means that part of what we celebrate in the coming of Jesus is that we who are finite and often at our wits end can rely on the wisdom of one who has been given to us.
How Does God Counsel Us?
The message of Christmas then is one of encouragement to us, that in our confusion and our analysis-paralysis, in our finitude and our living in a world full of misinformation, we have a ready guide and leader who will instruct our hearts.
We have a ready guide and leader who will instruct our hearts.
So how does God do this, today?
1. He Speaks
The Bible holds out and presents Jesus to us. Reading your Bible is not simply an exercise of stacking up verses, one after the other. Instead, it is God revealing himself to us through his speech. In this way he instructs our hearts. When we study the scriptures we are availing ourselves to instruction.
When we study the Bible we are availing ourselves to God’s instruction.
One psalmist calls the scriptures his “counsellors” (Psalm 119:24), because they reveal the Wonderful Counsellor to us. God instructs us, by progressively shaping our view of reality, changing our appetites and making us more and more like Jesus.
2. He Listens
Through prayer we renounce our own wisdom and avail our will to the Lord’s leading. We pray that his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. As we approach God in humble prayer, he moulds our hearts to grow in trusting his wisdom and guidance. In prayer, we not only ask for and receive God’s wisdom (James 1:5), but also grow in trusting it (Psalm 143:10).
3. He Gives Community
God also gives us the grace of the local church, where as a community we submit to one King. There we echo the words of scripture to one another. Together with fellow saints, we corporately seek to conform our lives to our King’s counsel.
Turn to the Wonderful Counsellor
It might seem a little absurd, but Christmas is an acknowledgement that our wisdom and understanding is sorely lacking. We celebrate because the wisdom of God has been made ours in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, who is your counsellor?