Last week we began our Advent series on Isaiah’s four titles for the King. This week we take up the first title, Wonderful Counselor.
Counselors are people who give advice. This may refer to a therapeutic relationship,or it might refer to an advising role. Political leaders, heads of state, and Kings all have advisers or counselors. Walter Bruggemann is his book Names for the Messiah, talks about counselors in terms of governance. Counselors have the ability to plan and administer policies.
Isaiah’s message may have originally been about a baby to be born or it may have been a coronation message. Either way we still have the question, how is a king a counselor? Who does the king counsel? More than one possibility comes to mind. We do need to remember that the way God calls kings to rule is not the way kings (for the most part) actually ruled.
One prominent Biblical image about kings was that of a shepherd. Kings were to act a shepherds. Shepherds guide their sheep to safe places with food and water. Shepherds protect their sheep from danger. Shepherds know their flock and how to care for them. Likewise a king was to care and provide for their people. Kings, all across the ancient world, were understood to in some way stand in for, or to speak for or to act for God. Kings were God’s agents. As an agent, a king did have responsibility to be sure their people knew how best to live.
But what about Jesus? In what ways is Jesus a counselor? Certainly one of the ways the Christian tradition speaks about Jesus is as king. And so we think about Jesus as the perfect king, the shepherd who counsels and care for his people. Certainly Jesus tells us, advises us how to live. But Jesus not only tells us but shows us. By word and by action, Jesus counsels, advises, us about how to live as Jesus’ people.
How about the modifier “wonderful”? If you were going to select a word to go with counselor, would it be wonderful? I might be inclined to select “wise”, or “good”, or “astute”. It would take me a while to come up with “wonderful”. But that is the word Isaiah gives us. A counselor who is full of wonder. Full of Awe. Full of delight.
I suspect the wonderfulness of Jesus’ counsel is its unexpectedness. King Jesus, the king who knows how we should best live counsels an unusual way of life. His counsel involves including the outcast, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, loving our enemy. In this world, that may or may not be wise or astute counsel but it certainly makes the world wonder.
And because Jesus empowers us to carry on his work, we are called to be wonderful counselors. Are there places you can speak or enact inclusion, welcome, healing, loving? What might your wonderful counsel be this week?