For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given and His name shall be called…Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
When many hear this word, their minds are filled with images of patients lying on a couch, pouring out their feelings, while the therapist jots down all of the Freudian theories for that patient’s problems. In other words, a counselor, to many of us, is the same as a therapist. Oxford Dictionary says a therapist is “a person who treats mental conditions by verbal communication and interaction.” I am so grateful for the verbal communication that therapists/counselors have provided in my life. When I was a teenager walking through my parent’s divorce, my counselor Dave was a listening ear. After my miscarriage years later, my counselor helped me find words for my grief. Counselors are often the people we can go to where (whether we are lying on a couch or not) we can pour out our feelings. Certainly, our Savior is the best person for us to go to with our jumbled emotions and mental strife. However, when Isaiah uses the word “Counselor” to describe Jesus, he is not referring to this type of counsel.
Counselor as defined in the bible is more than an advisor; it is one who purposes, plans, and carries out the plans with action, wisdom and strategy. The first time we see this word in scripture is in Exodus 18 when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gives his son-in-law some advice: Moses was doing too much on his own and Jethro told him exactly how to share the load among others. It was a plan with action. He was Moses' counselor. All throughout the Old Testament, we see that Kings had counselors who advised them about weighty matters; these counselors were sometimes prophets and seers, but sometimes they were simply chosen for their great wisdom and shrewdness. Whenever these counselors spoke, it was expected that they had the answer, they had the plan, straight from the throne of God. But the wrong counsel led Israel into perilous conditions time and time again – defeat in battle, national judgment, famine, plague, and exile, only to name a few. The state of the nation would rise and fall on these counselors.
When Isaiah prophesied, then, of a Child to come – a child who would govern Israel as Wonderful Counselor coupled with the words Mighty God -he was prophesying of a Counselor that would always hear God’s will correctly; of a Counselor who would be empowered by God himself to bring about only wonderful counsel! This was what the nation needed! This was what the Kings desired! Someone who could tell them the very words of God. When Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does, (John 5:19)” this wasn’t Him only speaking as the perfect Son or even as Immanuel – this was Him speaking as the Wonderful Counselor. Jesus came as The Word of God as the one who can rightly tell us the Father's desires, plans, and purposes. Jesus can be trusted as our greatest advisor because He perfectly knows the will of God. Romans 8:26 tells us that we don’t always know the will of God. Like the counselors in the Old Testament, we sometimes find ourselves not knowing what to do. But Romans goes on to say that the Spirit of Jesus knows exactly what the will of God is and that we can trust His Holy Spirit to pray through us exactly what is needed. What a promise!
Jesus, as our Counselor, promises to guide us in His purposes and plans with wisdom and strategy as we simply take the time to pause and pray in His Spirit. If there is a conundrum we are facing, a problem big or small, it is not in our best efforts or ideas that the solutions are given: it’s by His Spirit – the Spirit of the Wonderful Counselor. Zechariah 4:6 says that the impossible problem is accomplished, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.”
In this season of Christmas, maybe there is a family dynamic you need to navigate with wisdom. Maybe there is simply a weirdly shaped present you need to figure out how to wrap. Whatever the situation, you have a Wonderful Counselor who wants to give you the plan straight from heaven. Take a moment. Pray in the Spirit. And trust your Counselor to give you all that you need.