The Expository Files

What's in a Name?
(Isaiah 9:6)

Some time ago there was a big ruckus in the legal world concerning "truth in advertising". For example, if a product called itself a "pain reliever", then it had to relieve pain. What a concept! Yet sometimes we hear the expression, "What's in a name?" because we know that some things aren't always what they're called. Take my name, Ezekiel, for example. It means literally, "God strengthens". However for many years that was not what I believed. I lived 33 years trying to get my strength from my own devices rather than from where my name says it comes from. Only after God's grace was poured out on me did I realize how true my moniker is!

Let's consider the name of One whose purpose was determined before the beginning of time. The prophet Isaiah told his people in Isaiah 9:6 That someday a Child would be born. One whose name would symbolize the many wonderful aspects of His character. "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

God's prophet foretold that this coming One would give us guidance. He calls Him "Wonderful Counselor". The Hebrew word for wonderful is one that is used for the extraordinary or the miraculous, literally full of wonder. "Counselor" was used in terms of a king who guided his people through the consultation of trusted advisors. Thus we have One who would guide through extraordinary, wonderful counsel. Paul the apostle extols the wonder of Jesus in 1 Tim. 3:16: "And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory." As for the quality of His counsel, Paul tells us that in Him (Jesus) "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col. 2:3). Truly Jesus fulfills this as He guides us even today through His Word. All one has to do is take a look at the changed lives that result from heeding His advice.

Next Isaiah says this coming One would be called "Mighty God". The term reveals that not only would He be all-powerful (mighty), but He would also be God Himself! In other words, He would not just have the power of God, He would be the God of power! Paul relied on the God of power when he wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13) in the midst of extreme adversity. We too can lean on this awesome power when we are faced with distress of any kind.

Isaiah then calls the coming One "Eternal Father" linking Him conclusively with God who "inhabits eternity" as spoken of in Is. 57:15. In fact, when the Jews proudly told Jesus that they could trace their ancestral roots back to Abraham, Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58) The Jews were infuriated and prepared to stone Jesus because such a statement made Him equal with the God who gave His name as "I AM" to Moses in Ex. 3:14. The Hebrew writer reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8).

Finally Isaiah describes the coming Messiah as the "Prince of Peace". One of the many meanings of the Hebrew word "prince" (Shar) is "administrator". Since it's evident that Jesus didn't come to end all wars, the peace He came to administer must have a deeper significance. Peace means literally "joining together" and this is exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1). It was Jesus' voluntary, vicarious sacrifice for our sins that made this peace possible as in Is. 53:5 "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (NIV) He is the One who made peace with God possible and He is the One who keeps us in that peace!

The wonderful majesty of the names of Christ doesn't end there. Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfills the prophecy, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." (Matt. 1:23). John the apostle writes that "..the Word was God" and that "..the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:1, 14) Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus promised, "..I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:20) What a thrill to know that the author of our salvation is near when we need Him!

Perhaps the most wonderful name He possesses is that which we call Him by, "Jesus". The name means "God is my salvation" and was given to Jesus as an infant because " is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) Without Him and His work on the cross, we would surely have no hope! So, what's in a name? To the many who are being saved by the One who wears the name above all names, the answer is "Everything!" Now the question Jesus asks comes to you, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15). Well, what do you say?

By Zeke Flores
From Expository Files 11.4, April, 2004