Wonderful Counselor

Oh the wonder
Of the mystery of Christ
Oh the wonder
God, in You we live and breathe

There are pivotal moments in movies where the plot can either take a turn for the worse or the better. These heart-pounding seconds—where everything is up in the air—are often underscored with suspenseful strings trembling in the background, waiting to find resolution. Take the “The Lion King,” for example: as hundreds of wildebeests stampede below, King Mufasa hangs for dear life on a slippery slope and cries out to his brother, “Scar! Brother, help me!” Imagine multiplying one of these brief moments of suspense by four hundred years! Four centuries of silence and whispers, of questions and doubts, of waiting and wondering in the darkness.

This is the story of Israel in exile. They waited for God to speak; they waited for the Messiah. It is during these shadowy, exilic years of uncertainty that the people of Israel hearken back to the words of the prophets, like Isaiah, who proclaimed:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor.
(Isaiah 9:2, 6)

I find it curious that the first description Isaiah gives the coming Messiah is “Wonderful Counselor.” It’s not a portrayal of power, might, dominance, vengeance or force. The Messiah is characterized as one who offers counsel but doesn’t bulldoze; one who is present but not overbearing; one who is full of wisdom and wonder yet listens; one who is an advocate not an aggressor; and though he bears the weight of other’s burdens, he has a lightness about him. He is a Wonderful Counselor.

The truth is: God may have seemed “silent” for centuries, but he was still listening. Then, when Jesus the Messiah finally came, he continued to listen for another thirty years. Before the Word of God announced the Good News of his kingdom, he had “ears to hear” (Matthew 11:15). After all, a Wonderful Counselor is an attentive and compassionate listener, and even when he does speak, he often asks insightful questions.

Personally, when people tell me what difficulties they are facing in life, my first instinct is to “correct” or “fix” their problems. Unfortunately, I’m not one who is “quick to listen” (James 1:19) or to ask a clarifying question. I’m often “quick to convince” people to see things my way instead of understanding or imagining the other’s perspective with a heart of compassion. Maybe you’re like me. You want to be less reactive and more contemplative. Or maybe the soundtrack of your life is a lot like the ambiguous and ominous tones of trembling strings. Do you find yourself uncertain or anxious about what is coming next in your life? In prayer and meditation, bring your worries and burdens to the Wonderful Counselor. For his abundant patience, gentleness, kindness and mercy will overflow into the cup of your soul through prayer.

May you truly hear the comforting words of the Messiah:

Don’t worry about these things,
saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’
These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers,
but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else,
and live righteously,
and he will give you everything you need.
(Matthew 6:31-33)

Weekly Advent Readings: Psalm 105:2-5; Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 11:25-30; 1 Corinthians 1:21-25