“His name shall be called Wonderful…” Isaiah 9:6
Words, like fashion, adapt over time. These changes usually mirror shifts in attitudes or culture. So when I say, “I wonder if there are any tickets left for the 10.15am service”, what I really mean is I’m not sure. If I say, “I wonder if that’s really true?” I’m actually saying I doubt it is.
This is a completely different meaning from when Carl Boberg wrote his most famous hymn in 1885. When he begins, “O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder”, he’s expressing an overwhelming sense of God’s power and majesty that moved him to bellow the chorus now sung around the world in countless languages. “Then sings my soul… how great Thou art!”
This shift in usage prods me to ask – Do we even know what it means to ’wonder’ anymore? When was the last time I was prostrate in His Presence? Why are there so seldom messages or talk about the fear of the Lord?
Truth is, we’ve inherited a generation that downplays the Biblical call to ‘worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…’, because we’ve lost touch with the reality that ‘He is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV).
We’ve grown accustomed to two fast songs (to get us in the mood) and then a slower one or two so we can ‘worship’. God, give us a fresh encounter with You that leaves us awestruck, speechless, removing our sandals or falling on our knees, if not our faces!
There are two times in Scripture when God is called by the name ‘Wonderful’. In each case, He is, as the word’s traditional meaning suggests, experienced as ‘One who is absolutely and completely spectacular and full of wonder’.
Samson was born in an age riddled by perversion and evil. The Word was rare in those days (1 Samuel 3:1). ‘Everyone did what was right in their own eyes’ (Jude 21:25). Worship waned. Reverence dissipated. The Jehovah in their memories began to resemble the counterfeit gods of the heathen who had become their oppressors.
But God broke through Satan’s cruel scheme to keep the Children of Israel shackled in ignorance. It happened when Samson’s parents had an encounter with the living God. As the Angel of God ascended to heaven in the flames of their burnt offering, they screeched, “We are doomed to die… we have seen God!” (Jude 13:22).
Before He departed, Samson’s father Manoah wisely pressed to know the name of the ‘very awesome’ Angel Who had appeared to them. He had spoken mysteries no man could know. He had healed the barren womb of Manoah’s wife. He had directed them to offer a sacrifice ‘to Jehovah’.
This was no angel, it was God Himself! He answered Manoah, “Why are you asking about my name? It’s Wonderful!” (Jude 13:18)
The second time was when Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9. He could call God ‘Wonderful’ because of fresh recall. ‘Wonder’ is the word that best describes our visceral response to rendezvous with impossible and miraculous occurrences.
In Chapter 6 he had been ‘undone’ during an encounter with the majesty and holiness of God. His eyes had seen the Lord, high and lifted up, the train of His robe filling the temple (6:1).
Isaiah was enamored, captivated, and transfixed by this visitation. Then and there, he made a vow to go for God that has echoed throughout the ages: “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our precious Saviour, may we seek a fresh encounter with Him. It’s why He came. ‘For unto us a Child is born… and His name will be called ‘Wonderful’.’ (Isaiah 9:6)