For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah 9:6 may be the most familiar Old Testament prophecy about the birth of Christ. Handel included those words in one of the great choruses of his Messiah oratorio. Chances are you either sing it or hear it several times every Christmas season.
Unfortunately, we seem to pull this passage out of the box only during the holidays. It's like one of the ornaments we use to decorate our houses. But have you ever thought about the rich truth this single verse teaches concerning the King of kings? Though we still await the full realization of His kingdom, the promised Messiah is the greatest political ruler ever.
Isaiah wrote this prophecy at least a hundred years before Israel was taken into Babylonian captivity-nearly 600 years before the birth of the Savior! Looking at a litany of failed monarchs, and sitting in the rubble of Israel's monarchy, Isaiah looked across the centuries to a time when God would rule on earth through His Son.
"A child will be born to us" underscores the Messiah's humanity. He had to come as a human being, in the form of a child, so He could endure the temptations men face, yet be without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
"A son will be given to us" implies the Savior's deity. He existed before His birth as the second Person of the Trinity: "Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7). He came as the Son of God-God in human flesh-to conquer sin and death forever.
"The government will rest on His shoulders" affirms His lordship. This verse looks to a time still future when Christ will reign over a literal, earthly, geopolitical kingdom that encompasses all the kingdoms and governments of the world (cf. Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 14:9).
In that day, the government of the whole world will rest on His shoulders. But until that time, His kingdom is in an invisible form (cf. Luke 17:20-21). The Messiah's rule is over those who trust Him and obey Him as Lord. It's currently an invisible kingdom, but will one day become visible and universal as His rule extends even over those who do not acknowledge His lordship in their hearts.
What kind of kingdom is it? What distinguishes the Messiah's kingdom from the other kingdoms of this world? The names Israel used for Christ in hint at four characteristics that make the Messiah's kingdom-in all its manifestations-different from any other earthly government. At a time when the world is weary and despairing of political solutions, when the political future looks bleak, this is welcome news.
No Confusion-He Is a Wonderful Counselor
First, this kingdom is free from confusion, because Christ is a "Wonderful Counselor." The King James Version separates "Wonderful" and "Counselor" with a comma, but the words seem to go better together and appear that way in most modern versions.
Every now and then, a politician comes on the scene who possesses, according to some, messiah-like qualities. Whether it's a reference to speaking ability, charisma, or wisdom, it's certainly a compliment. However, when you compare the greatest social or political leader with Jesus Christ, you'll find there's no comparison at all.
During His incarnation, Christ demonstrated His wisdom as a counselor. While I was writing The Gospel According to Jesus, I studied every major encounter Jesus had with individuals who came to Him for counsel. He always knew what to say, when to reach out to a seeking heart, and when to rebuke an impetuous soul. Even his enemies testified, "Never did a man speak the way this man speaks" (John 7:46).
As God incarnate, Christ is the source of all truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). No politician can match that! It is He to whom we must ultimately turn and trust His loving rule of our lives.