I had the joy of listening to the Maranatha Baptist University orchestra and choirs play and sing Handel’s Messiah again this year. It is always a joyous occasion.
Handel built this oratorio on Scripture and one of the key passages is Isaiah 9:6, which concludes, “and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Most commentators today would suggest removing the comma between the first two terms, leaving four parallel names:
Prince of Peace
Jesus was called Immanuel, but any Jewish boy could have had that name, just as any Jewish boy could have been called “Jesus” or the Hebrew form of that name, Joshua. No Jewish boy, however, could have been called any of these four names.
Jesus certainly is a wonderful counsellor, but the Hebrew may be translated “a wonder of a counsellor.” David’s key counsellor, Ahithophel, was regarded as a messenger from God (2 Sam 16:23), but who is the Messiah’s counsellor? No one! For Jesus does not need one to deliver a message from God; He Himself is His own counsellor.
The second name, Mighty God, emphasizes the deity of Jesus. Psalm 24:8 refers to the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” The Messiah is truly God. Through the incarnation, Jesus, who has always been deity, also became man. Thus we speak of the God-man. Theologians do not argue that He was half-god and half-man; that is the kind of deity that the pagans worshiped. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Thus, we may clearly declare Him to be the Mighty God.
The name, Everlasting Father, has created some confusion. Some in the early church believed that there was only one God (and only one Person); they believed that sometimes God wore His “Father” hat, sometimes He wore His “Son” hat, and sometimes His “Spirit” hat. (This is theological “modalism.”) They would generally argue that God was the Father in the Old Testament, the Son in the New Testament, and the Spirit in the church age. This is not, however, what this name teaches.
Young’ Literal Translation phrases this name as “Father of Eternity.” Most commentators agree that Isaiah was not speaking of Jesus as the Father, because the context is not a trinitarian context. It is the context of Jesus as man. “Everlasting” would argue that Jesus has always existed. I don’t want to get off into some theological weeds here, but consider this – before creation, there was nothing besides God. There was no “place” for Him to exist, for space was not yet created. There was no “time” in which He existed, for time had not yet been created. He has not always been in the universe; I would contend that the universe is only about 6000 years old. Thus, Isaiah declares the Jesus has always existed. If we translate the name as Father of Eternity, then we could argue that Isaiah was speaking of this Mighty God as the Creator of all things, including humanity. I think we need to go a bit further, however. In John 14:9 Jesus said that if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. The relationship between the members of the Trinity is beyond our understanding.
The final name is Prince of Peace. In the incarnation, Jesus came to bring peace. He was meek and mild, although He was never weak and silent in the face of sin. We know that in His second coming, He will rule with a rod of iron, but His kingdom will not be a violent one. He will bring peace in the millennium, because He will be the absolute King of the Earth; according to verse 7, He will rule with justice and righteousness, two characteristics lacking in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah and sadly lacking in the governments of the world today.
So we can sing with Handel, “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”