I’ve been reading Paul Tripp’s book, “Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional.” Good stuff right there. He has a way of stripping away the layers of pretense and getting to the heart of the matter – our desperate need for a Savior and whether we will receive or reject him.
A few days ago, the devotional centered on Isaiah 9:6 (NLT) – “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called:
Prince of Peace.”
It made me curious about this verse so often quoted at Christmas time. What do these words, the descriptors of God in human flesh, of Emmanuel – God with us, really mean? I decided to dig a little deeper.
Let’s start with WONDERFUL. The New Living Translation suggests a comma between Wonderful, Counselor meaning the word WONDERFUL stands on its own, not as an adjective (modifier) of the word Counselor. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but after my word study, I get why. Here are three things I learned about the Hebrew word pele translated as wonderful in this verse:
1. Wonderful means all the usual things we associate with this word:
full of wonder • extraordinary •
marvelous • surpassing •
beyond one’s imagination •
strength • power • ability •
esteemed • splendid • glorious
Our God is a great and awesome God, so wonderful, so marvelous, so far above what we can think or imagine. The psalmist uses wonderful to describe his works, his lovingkindness, his thoughts towards us, his strength, his miracles, his creation, his grace, his compassion, his precepts, and things beyond human comprehension. God loves us not because we are wonderful (as much as we might like to think so), but because HE is wonderful, lavishly extending his grace, compassion, and mercy infinitely beyond what we deserve.
2. Wonderful means to perform a great and wonderful work of intercession on behalf of another in regards to coming judgment.
Based on the ancient pictographs composing the Hebrew letters as described in “The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible” ©2005 by Jeff A. Benner, the three images depict a mouth, a shepherd’s staff, and judgment. Combined, these words mean “speak to authority” or to intercede on one’s own behalf or for another, specifically about a coming judgment. When the letters are ordered a certain way, it includes the action of performing a great and wonderful work that shows one’s might; specifically, an act of intercession. This is exactly what Jesus came to do…to perform the great and wonderful work of redemption on our behalf, interceding between sinful humanity and holy God, providing a way for us to be in relationship with him.
3. Wonderful means hard, difficult, or impossible. It’s the same word translated in Jeremiah 32:17 and 27, that “nothing is too pele” i.e., too hard or difficult, for the Lord.
There’s nothing easy about redeeming rebellious human beings who willfully choose sin over relationship with a loving and merciful God. It’s impossible for us to do it ourselves. It’s so difficult that only one person could do it, God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. He became one of us so he could die for us, becoming our substitute and dying the death we deserve for our sin, receiving his righteousness in its place.
Wonderful…the majestic, glorious God who was born as a babe so he could grow up and die for our sins, accomplishing the impossible task of reconciling fallen humanity with its Creator. Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, Risen Savior, Hope of the world.
This makes for a great Christmas story, but how does it give me help and hope in my daily life?
You may question, and I have too, that if God is so wonderful and nothing is too hard for him, why doesn’t he solve my problems? They are nothing compared to his ability to do so. However, we must remember that…
God is more interested in
accomplishing HIS will in our lives
than OUR will
And, even though my circumstances may not be what I want, God extends his wondrous, mighty works on my behalf to do something I could never do on my own…to transform me into being more like Jesus, receiving his kindness and grace and extending it to others, especially those who don’t deserve it.
How will the Christmas story play out in your life today?
Will you receive or reject his grace?
To whom will you extend it?
That’s what Christmas is all about.