Isaiah 9:6 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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Last Sunday marked the beginning of Advent. It also marked the beginning of a short sermon series on the names of Jesus given in Isaiah 9:6 and 7:14. This series is intended to help build excitement and celebration appropriate for the One whose “coming” this season remembers, by describing the nature and work and glory of the One whose “coming” this seasons remembers.
To that end, last week we considered and marveled at the fact that Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor. He is a counselor because he gives counsel. He is a good counselor because his counsel is always true and helpful and right. He is a great counselor because at the cost of his life he forgives our rejection of his good counsel and all our resulting sins. And he is the Wonderful Counselor because, in addition to each of these things, he gives us new hearts to love, and new strength to obey, his wonderful counsel.
This morning, we’re going to look at the second name in Isaiah 9:6: Mighty God! It is a particularly important name because it is the one upon which the rest are built. It is because Jesus is “Mighty God” that he is able to be “Wonderful Counselor,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” and “Immanuel.” No mere man could ever be these things. But, as we will see this morning, Jesus is no mere man. He is the mighty God-man! Let’s pray that, once again, we’d be given appropriate awe at these awesome things.
NAMES ARE MORE THAN A POINT OF REFERENCE
Quickly, before we get to the name of Jesus, I want to state explicitly something I alluded to last week: names and naming in the bible are far more significant than our culture understands.
Most of the people I know (myself included) give little thought to the significance of the naming they do. People tend to name things because we’re expected to. And we tend to give names primarily because we like the way they sound or because we want to honor someone important to us.
We named our dog Izzo because we thought it’d be fun (and funny) to have a dog named after MSU’s basketball coach. We named Anna, Christianna because we liked the sound of it and because really liked the character in Pilgrim’s Progress. We named Daniel, Daniel because we wanted him to have a character in the bible to look to and because we didn’t dislike anyone named Daniel. Again, most of the people we know have given names for the same types of reasons.
Whether we realize it or not, however, naming things is a much more significant and serious thing than we often make it out to be. In biblical times and in other cultures today this was/is understood. Please consider R.C. Sproul’s words to this point.
A name is more than just a handy way of referring to someone else, it also gives us telling clues about a person’s history and identity. The last name Carpenter, for example, tells us that woodworking is or was a prominent vocation in a family’s line. Or, the name Jacobson indicates that a man named Jacob was a patriarch in the family’s history. Similarly, the names by which God is known tell us a lot about His character.
[What’s more,] biblically speaking, the act of naming is inextricably linked to authority. In ancient times especially, authority over someone or something was wielded by the person who chose its name. Adam, for instance, gave names to all the animals after the Lord made him from the dust of the earth (2:19), and this was the first time he acted to fulfill the mandate to exercise dominion over the created order (1:26). By naming the other creatures, Adam established himself as their lord.
Sproul’s point is twofold: 1) The authority to name someone/thing defines the relationship in no small measure. The one naming is in authority over the one named. And 2) The name given defines that person/thing in no small measure. A person’s name (certainly when given by God) is who they are.
And my point in sharing this with you is to highlight the fact that what we have in Isaiah 9:6 and 7:14 is a more significant thing than many of us may have realized. In these passages we see God’s unique authority to name the One through whom he would restore his people and we learn a lot about what the Restorer will be like. In other words, in these few verses we find God’s unique authority to declare the nature and work of the coming Messiah (who we now know is Jesus of Nazareth).
Before we move on to the implications of this in Isaiah 9:6, please consider the implications of this for you and I. As we’ve seen, when God names something he defines it. Whether that thing realizes it or not, whether that thing believes it or not, whether that thing accepts it or not, whether that thing likes it or not, when God names something it becomes what God calls it.
Grace, if you are trusting in Jesus, God has named you and in so doing, defined you. You are who God says you are and he says…
You are called “chosen” (Ephesians 1:4). You are called “beloved” (1 John 3:2). You are called “Child of God” (1 John 3:2). You are called “Redeemed” (Ephesians 1:7). You are called “Forgiven” (Ephesians 1:7). You are called “New Creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are called “Sanctified” (1 Corinthians 1:2). You are called “Alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). You are called “Friend” (John 15:15). You are called “Free” (Romans 8:1). You are called “Heir” (Romans 8:17). You are called “Accepted” (Romans 15:7). You are called “Righteous” (2 Corinthians 5:21). You are called “Blessed” (Ephesians 1:3). You are called “Near to God” (Ephesians 2:13). You are called “Citizen of Heaven” (Philippians 3:20). And you are called “Complete” (Colossians 2:10).
These are just some of your names. And, therefore, this is just some of who you are in Christ or who you will be if you turn to Christ.
Though we are often tempted to give ourselves different names, we are not free to name our selves. We lack that authority. Instead, we are named. And our names are who we are. Find rest in this, Grace. Find help and hope in this Grace. Know your name so that you can know who you are. Don’t be deceived into believing you’re something you’re not and don’t stop short of believing all that you are according to God.
With that, let’s consider the second name of Jesus: Mighty God.
As you can easily see, there are two defining characteristics in this name, 1) mighty and 2) God.
The Mightiness of Jesus
That the person of Isaiah 9:6 is mighty (gibbôr) means that he is strong, powerful, warrior-like. We see the same word used in several passages throughout the OT. As we consider them together, we get a picture of what it means that the messiah is mighty.
Because of the arrogance of the Assyrians—in believing that it was by their own strength that they conquered Israel, rather than that they were merely instruments of God’s judgment upon Israel—God, through Isaiah, promises a day of future judgment on Assyria. Further, concerning that day, Isaiah writes,
Isaiah 10:20-21 Now it will come about in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
Upon receiving the second set of tablets from God on Sinai, Moses declares to the people of Israel…
Deuteronomy 10:17 the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.
And in seeking understanding concerning God’s mysterious work through him, Jeremiah prayed…
Jeremiah 32:17-18 Lord GOD! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts…
In cases like these with a similar context to Isaiah 9:6 “mighty” clearly refers to one who is strong or powerful enough to accomplish his will regardless of the circumstances or opposition. It refers to one who can do as he pleases without hindrance. It refers to a type of strength that is unstoppable.
This attribute of the messiah has never really been challenged. Whoever the messiah was—to be greater than David, to bring all enemy forces to their knees, to liberate and restore God’s people to power and joy and glory—it has always been accepted that he would be mighty.
Grace, as we move through Advent and toward the celebration of the coming of the Child-King, know that he is mighty! There is nothing that can stay his hand. Those on his side need not worry. He is a mighty warrior, unable to be defeated, and always fighting for us. Whatever comes our way, we rest in the knowledge that he stood before it in all his might and allowed it to pass into our lives, for our good. Nothing sneaks by him, there is no way around him, and above all, nothing can go through him without his permission.
On the other hand, Grace, for those who reject him as king, the same might is against them. It’s so tragic and ironic that many in our culture celebrate the birth of the one whose might will destroy them if they do not repent. We don’t like to think in those terms (especially during a season as sentimental as this), but not thinking about it doesn’t make it any less true.
The mightiness of the man of Isaiah 9:6, Jesus of Nazareth, is not theoretical. It is real. And it is either worth celebrating in the highest or it is something to be feared above all. There is no in-between.
The Deity of Jesus
Again, this much has not been much of a source of contention. The same cannot be said, however, for the second part of the second name in Isaiah 9:6 (el). The claim that the man of Isaiah 9:6 is God that has caused much controversy, even from the very beginning. This messiah, Isaiah writes, will not merely be a conquering man or a powerful warrior or a strong king, he will be mighty God!
The Jews didn’t accept this. The early followers of Jesus were utterly confused by this. Even today this is one of the most controversial and divisive claims about Jesus. And yet, in Jesus we find the revelation of a mystery long hidden—the Messiah of Isaiah 9:6 was the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God.
I’m sure that most in this room do not struggle to acknowledge that Jesus is God. And yet vague notions of Jesus don’t make for good celebration, and understanding in general that the bible speaks to the deity of Jesus lacks celebratory power; but specific, clear, grounded biblical teaching concerning Jesus’ divine nature is more than enough fuel to power brightly lit, joyously festive celebrations.
Concerning the deity of Jesus, then, consider the language of John 1 (and its similarities to the beginning of Isaiah 9—”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined”).
John 1:1-4, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John makes plain that Jesus is the Word and the Word is God. He states this both explicitly and implicitly. Explicitly, we see in v.1, “the Word was God.” And explicitly, in v.14 we see that the Word is Jesus of Nazareth, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Implicitly we see that the incarnate Word has divine qualities. He was “with God in the beginning,” creator of “all things,” the source of life and light, and full of glory, grace, and truth.
Similarly, Thomas declared Jesus to be, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)!
In Hebrews 1: Jesus is said to be “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” He is also said to “uphold the universe by the word of his power.”
Paul, in Titus 2:13, refers to Jesus as “our great God and Savior.” In Romans 9:5 he says that Jesus is “God over all.” And in Colossians 2:9 he writes that in Jesus “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
And Jesus himself took on God’s most holy name declaring, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).
Jesus is eternally the Son of God and in history became the incarnate son of man.
Grace, marvel with me at the God-man of Isaiah 9:6, Jesus the Messiah. Eternally existing in perfect harmony and unity among the persons of the godhead. Eternally determined to create. Eternally determined to uphold and sustain. Eternally determined to endure mankind’s rebellion. Eternally determined to rescue. Eternally determined to redeem. Eternally determined to restore. Eternally determined to strengthen and guide. Eternally glorious beyond measure.
It is his divine nature that makes his incarnation (Christmas) so worthy of celebrating. And it is the work he accomplished on earth as the incarnate One that makes him so worthy of celebrating.
We are not preparing to celebrate the coming of a sufficient care-giver. We are not preparing to celebrate the coming of an adequate leader. We are not preparing to celebrate the coming of a capable guide. We are preparing to celebrate the coming of the Mighty God named in Isaiah 9:6, displayed in the gospels, and declared throughout history.
Far more than presents, far more than family, far more than tradition, far more than holiday cheer, we celebrate the reality that Mighty God came and dwelt among us, suffered, died, and was buried in place of us, rose from the dead for us, and even now sits at the right hand of God advocating on behalf of us.
Do we really need anything more than that to fuel our celebrations? Of course not. Our celebrations, then must never seek to add to what we already have. The things we do (presents and parties and food) are not meant to create joy and happiness and thankfulness, they are meant to be expressions of the joy and happiness and thankfulness that we already have in Jesus. And at the very least, they are meant to teach our still-learning hearts (and the hearts of our still-learning children) that the coming of Mighty God is worth celebrating.
Fight for this, Grace. Don’t let the things of this earth become the cause of celebration. They can never bear that weight. They are only able to be a means of celebration. Celebrating well, then, always begins with the Spirit and the Word. This Advent let’s be people of the Spirit and the Word. Let’s take this seriously. Let’s be relentless in our prayers to God to make himself supreme in our minds and hearts. And let’s be relentless in our prayers to God to satisfy our souls above all things. That is to say, let us be relentless in determining in the power of the Holy Spirit to celebrate, not the things of God, but Mighty God himself!
The Necessity of Jesus’ Mightiness and Deity
Before I conclude, I’d like to draw your attention to one more aspect of this name and description of Jesus’ nature. Not only are the might and deity of Jesus worthy of celebrating, they are also necessary.
Apart from Jesus being both mighty and God, we would be left in our sin and have no cause for celebration. If he were not mighty he would not have been able to withstand the wrath of the Father for the sins of his people. And if he were not God, he would not have been able to absorbed all of the wrath of the Father for all of his people. It is as Mighty God that Jesus was sufficient to atone for our sins and give us new life on the cross.
That Jesus is Mighty God is real, not figurative; and it is necessary, not supplemental. God is who he is and who he must be. And that is great cause—indeed, it is all the cause we need—for the greatest celebrations on earth this Advent season.
I’m going to wrap up with the conclusion of the R.C. Sproul quote I began with.
Human beings name the animals, but we do not give names to God; rather, the Lord names Himself as a manifestation of His transcendence. The Lord revealed His covenant name Yahweh at the burning bush; Moses did not come up with it on his own (Ex. 3:14)…
We live in a pluralistic society that wants to make God in its own image. Therefore, we must never forget that we do not name God; He names Himself. Only through standing firm upon the Lord’s own self-revelation and calling upon Him as He has revealed Himself can we guard the faith once delivered to us (Jude 3).
This Advent season, let us make sure we are not trying to name God. Let’s make sure our kids are not trying to name God. Let’s make sure our Christian friends are not trying to name God. And let’s not be surprised that the world around us is.
Instead, let’s increasingly learn and celebrate and declare the names God has already given himself: “Wonderful Counselor,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” “Immanuel,” and “Mighty God”! In these names and their significance is more than enough to fuel our celebrations and satisfy our souls eternally. Amen.