There’s a famous Advent reading that I’ve always found to be really weird. It’s Isaiah 9:6 and I read it again today. Check it out in the NIV:
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.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
It’s beautiful and traditional and points us to the majestic beauty of the coming Messiah. I absolutely love this verse. Yet, it’s super weird too.
First, the “government will be on his shoulders,” has never sat well with me. It’s felt so out of place and really never made sense to me. When I read the passage this morning it was in a translation of the Bible that I had never read it out from before, the NRSV. It translates the phrase this way, “authority rests upon his shoulders.”
I had an “AHA” moment.
My guess is that for many of you this is nothing new. But, for me it was a “WOAH! I get it! WHAT!?” kind of moment.
When I think of the reality that Jesus has authority, particularly the power to settle issues, it brings so much into laser focus for me. Throughout the prophets in the Old Testament we see the people of God being put on trial by God, in a sense. We also see the people of God putting God on trial too. They are found guilty of setting God aside and end up being exiled.
Yet, there is this promise of the Messiah to come. The one who would bring them home. This weird little verse gives us a glimpse into the foundation for the Messiah to be able to do that. It is because he has authority. He has the power to settle issues.
Second, the other weird thing about this verse is the “wonderful counselor” bit. I always had in my head a picture of God with a notebook doing counseling. Today though, with my “AHA” moment on the “government” issue, I realized that I should look more deeply into the “wonderful counselor” bit too.
The word “counselor” could be understood as “strategist.” The NET Bible translates the phrase, “extraordinary strategist.”
The kind of counselor we are talking about is the kind of person that was wise and strategic. These are two of the things that I see in Jesus ministry and here they are, on display, in this prophecy.
I mean, come on.
You know, I have been studying the Bible a long time and have told people for years to check different translations, etc… Isn’t it funny how going back to the basics can be such a big deal?