6. The Wonderful Counselor

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is Isaiah 9:1-7, our subject: ‘the wonderful counselor.’

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation,

When at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

And afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea,

Beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:

They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy:

They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest,

And as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder,

The rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise,

And garments rolled in blood;

But this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:

And the government shall be upon his shoulder:

And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God,

The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,

To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice

From henceforth even for ever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 1

In Isaiah 9:6, four names are given to the Messiah. ‘Name’ in Scripture means ‘to describe.’ These names, therefore, indicate who the Messiah was, that while He was born of the humanity of Adam, He is at the same time God Himself. Isaiah says:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”

He is both born and given, and the government or dominion is on His shoulders, and there shall be no end forever to the increase of His government.

There is, thus, in the Messiah a continuity with the humanity of Adam, with the covenant and the Davidic house, but He is also very God of very God.

Then, four names are used to describe the Messiah: first of all He is called the ‘wonderful counselor’ or ‘wonder counselor.’ Now the term ‘counselor’ does not mean as much to us as it did in antiquity, that in antiquity men recognized the need for counsel. Thus, whenever you encounter a monarch in the ancient world, he had a number of counselors. We see for example in the first chapter of Esther when Ahasuerus had a decision to make, he called in a group of counselors, the wise men of the realm. Now, we may disagree with the judgment of those counselors; and we may not. But it is significant that this act by an absolute monarch was typical of men in the ancient world. They recognized that no man has the wisdom to render a judgment, a decision, entirely on his own. They realized, moreover, that not even the wisest of men could render such a decision. And so they relied on a group of counselors. Wise men were always consulted, thus, before action. And the Bible gives such counsel to all, that they who believe in the Lord seek counsel.

There are a number of such references for example in Proverbs, Proverbs 11:14

Where no counsel is, the people fall:

But in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.

Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil:

But to the counsellers of peace is joy. 2

Without counsel purposes are disappointed:

But in the multitude of counsellers they are established. 3

For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war:

And in multitude of counsellers there is safety. 4

However, here we have one counselor, a very marked difference. He is the ‘wonderful,’ or the ‘wonder’ counselor, very plainly setting forth the fact that the counsel of God is absolute and perfect. The Messiah stands alone, no other word is needed.

We are given this wonder-counselor in antithesis to the counselor of Genesis 3:1-5, Satan. The Tempter comes to give a counsel to man, and to this counsel man listens. The temptation of that counsel was: “Ye shall be as God, every man his own god, knowing, determining for himself good and evil; every man listening to his own word and being his own counselor.” And as against this, we have the wonderful counselor.

The first counselor in history posited the sovereignty of the creature: be ye your own God. Any control over man was seen by him as an offense. And today the drift of our society is to emphasize more and more the freedom of man from the word, the counsel of God. How far this goes is apparent in a newly published book, an amazing book. The title is Sentenced to Die, the People, the Crimes, and the Controversy by S.H. Gettinger.

Now, Gettinger deals with eight convictions, eight cases where men were sentenced to the death penalty. He goes over these trials in order to tell us how horrible the death penalty is; “...arbitrary and capricious,” 5 that is the term he uses. However, as Clarence B. Carson has pointed out in an article about the book:

“In each case, the man was charged with and found guilty of either premeditated murder or murder committed while in the act of committing a felony. Each of them had a jury trial, had at least one attorney, was protected against self-incrimination, was permitted to submit evidence on his own behalf, and was accorded a presumption of innocence. Some of the crimes were particularly horrible: a man beat his wife to death in bed and killed one of his small children with a poker (after making sexual advances on one of his daughters); another involved the killing of a man in bed and attacking his wife who was beside him; another was a father who gave poisoned candy to one of his children on Halloween, and so on. A good case can be made that the murders were arbitrary and capricious. On the face of it, no such case is made that the decisions to execute were. At the time of the writing of the book, none of the ap~s made on behalf of the murderers had moved any court to decide so.” 6

This should not surprise us. If we believe that man is his own God, and man’s own word and counsel should determine his life, and he should be free to conduct according to his word, then any interference with that freedom is “arbitrary and capricious.” But we are told that rather than the counsel of our own hearts there is a wonderful counselor, a wonder-counselor, to whom man must give absolute obedience. It is God’s counsel against the tempter's counsel. Christ as counselor versus Satan as Counsellor.

And God declares in Isaiah 46:10:

My counsel shall stand,

And I will do all my pleasure:

The second name that is given to the Messiah here is ‘the Mighty God’ or ‘Hero-God’. The omnipotent God, He who is the covenant God, who binds Himself to come in terms of covenant, and to give His life as a ransom for His people. He promises to redeem them. He provides, God does in His sovereign grace and mercy, both parties to the covenant. God who is faithful, and man who pays the penalty and also renders perfect obedience in the person of Christ, who is both God and man.

Then, third, He is called ‘The Everlasting Father’ or ‘Father of Eternity.’ Father. Eternally the Father, ever provident of us, ever caring for us, ever mindful of us throughout all eternity.

And fourth, ‘The Prince of Peace.’ The peace was broken by the prince of discord, when he tempted man into sin; when he gave man false counsel. But the Prince of Peace restores total peace, peace between God and man, peace between man and man, peace between man and nature. Beginning with our regeneration and culminating in the totality of the new creation, and we having been redeemed are given a mandate to further that peace which the Messiah sets forth.

Now before the coming of Christ there were types, and typology is an important aspect of Scripture which is much neglected. There were types that set forth He that was to come, types that set forth events that were to transpire before the coming of Christ; so that we can go through the whole of Scripture and study its typology. This is an important fact, too often today we neglect typology, but there would be no typology if God were not the creator of history. There would be no direction in history, no predestination, without typology. One reason why typology is a neglected subject or very lightly touched is because the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and His predestinating power are not popular in these days. Without that doctrine, typology disappears. What happens then?

Typology says all of history has a meaning, and the meaning is in terms of Christ, in terms of God’s purpose through His Messiah, to restore the earth, to make it God’s kingdom, to judge the ungodly, and to bring forth His purpose, His righteousness, His justice, His law, His grace and mercy, to their predestined purpose. Abolish that, and you have a world without meaning. What happens then? Instead of types you have ‘symbols.’ Symbols which pretend to represent something, which are a substitute for meaning. The modern world is very much given to an interest in symbols, the symbols à la Freud have a world of meaning with regard to the unconscious; but the unconscious itself has no real meaning. It does not speak of a purpose to life, of an absolute meaning which governs all things. Truth goes out of life, when life is reduced to symbols signifying vague, unconscious and primordial meanings.

Now, modern politics is the reduction of truth and life to empty symbols. This is why it is hard, very hard, for godly men to win in politics. Because what counts with people is not truth, but empty symbols. I was very interested this past Monday in Sacramento, I was talking with state Senator Bill Richardson, and he indicated that he believed that Carter would win the reelection. I was surprised, and I asked: “Why? Given his popularity?” “Well,” he said: “Unless he rocks the boat between now and election time, which is quite likely, as of now he is likely to win. And it is not because he is any more popular today than he was a year ago, or that people have changed their mind about him as being incapable of leadership, and a bungler. But the very fact that they prefer that when it comes to a showdown will reelect him. They are afraid of anyone who will come through with a meaning, either to the right or to the left, and will do something decisive. What they want, really, is more bungling. It helps Jerry Brown to be regarded as flaky; he is accomplishing nothing, and people want someone who talks vaguely, gives symbolic meanings, but accomplishes nothing.”

I suspect this is true. Today we have politicians who crusade for state schools, but put their children in private schools. And it does not hurt them if that is pointed out. They demand equality, but they practice elitism. They honor honesty, and they deal in corruption; and in all this they reflect the voters. Jerry Brown, the governor of California, is self-consciously a dealer in symbols, not reality.

When a couple of years ago the loggers drove their trucks up and down the streets of Sacramento in protest against the fact that environmentalists had put an end to a great deal of logging and cost tens of thousands of jobs, the reaction of Brown and his comment was: “It is all symbols. All they are arguing about is symbols.” 7 And an aide of his said: “It is all a game.” 8 Why is it all a game when jobs are at stake? It is all a game if nothing is real, including man and his jobs; if we are all a world of illusions, of emptiness.

Lorenz in his book on Jerry Brown describes the great potato chip debate, a very interesting thing. Brown and a number of his aides were having a get-together in a Zen Buddhist meeting house, and there were refreshments, and there were some Pringles potato chips there. And one of the aides was very angry that Pringles potato chips were there, and Brown became very upset, and the rest of the meeting was spent in the Great potato chip debate. The objection of his aide was that these were not potato chips, they were synthetic; but Brown held forth, from Lorenz’s summary:

“So what if they were more expensive and not very nutritional. What was a potato chip, anyway? Who could say? Were the experts assembled in the room so high and mighty that they could define what a potato chip was? He, for one, wasn't convinced· He wasn't convinced about anything. What was reality, anyway?” 9

Well, if reality is an illusion and only symbols, and if man is an illusion and symbols, why object to the lack of nutrition in a potato chip? In other words, for Brown, reality has given away to appearances and symbols. Instead of a real world, we have a world which is in process of becoming an illusion. For the present, the symbols are still important, but people move more in terms of symbols, of status, so that in many corporations a particular size desk is very important, much more important than reality.

In fact, Lorenz goes on to say in his book:

“Appearances were the New Reality, and if you tried to hold on to the Old Reality in spite of it all, you were unhappy or went crazy, or did both.” 10

Lorenz, a Liberal, who broke with the Brown administration said that one prominent Liberal in Sacramento admitted to him: “I am living on junk food and junk sex.” 11 What this all leads up to, Lorenz describes as “the world of camp.” And what is camp? He defines it:

“Camp was not only an assault on conventional meanings, it was the glorification of no meaning, the triumph of style over substance, of aesthetics over morality, of irony over tragedy, of form over feeling ... The whole purpose of Camp was to dethrone seriousness and strong feelings .. .it tried to decorate the environment rather than change it.” 12

Now, the whole point of this is that modern man, having rejected Christ, will listen to a counsel which is pure illusion, which reduces the world to symbols, not reality. To reject Christ is to enthrone appearances, symbols, and the imagination.

There is not one reference in the Bible to imagination which is favorable. It speaks of the imagination of man’s heart being evil. Because what imagination does is not to deal with the real world and say: “What can I do?” but imagination is that aspect of man where he substitutes his idea of reality for reality. And the Bible sees that aspect of man, that imagination, as an aspect of the counsel of the Tempter; to be his own god, to create his own world and reality. But as Isaiah says, God has given the wonderful counselor who shall destroy all illusion, for of the increase of His government there shall be no end. He shall move against all those who are enemies, who live in the world of the false counselor, to destroy them. He is the reality by whom all things were made; as the wonderful counselor, He is the antithesis of symbols and imagination. What His coming does is to shatter man's symbols and set in process their judgment.

The sinner, in other words, does not live in a real world; and because of that, he is headed for judgment. But our salvation places us in a real world, and sanctification means to grow in terms of that real word, by giving heed to the wonderful counselor, by obeying His every word, by knowing that it is out of every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God and only by that every word that man shall live.

Thus, as we face the world around us it is a world we must recognize, that moves in terms of the false counselor, and is doomed; and its judgment is sure. And we are summoned to give heed to the Wonderful Counselor, the only wise God and our savior, who is the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, we thank thee that in Jesus Christ we have the antidote to symbols and illusions, to the counsel of the Tempter, and the counsel of our fallen hearts. We thank thee that in Jesus Christ we have been made a new creation, our eyes have been opened, and we live in thy world, and that by thy grace we have power to exercise dominion and to bring all things into captivity to Christ as King. Make us strong, O Lord ,in obedience, give us hearing ears to hear His counsel, and obedient hands and feet to be ever faithful in pursuing thy Word. Grant us this we beseech thee, in Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Can you comment on the recent spike in interest in astrology and its link with symbols.

[Rushdoony] Yes, the interest in astrology today is an interest in a world of symbols; because rather than a world that has a meaning given to it by God, men seek a meaning from within creation, essentially a man-made meaning. So that the stars and the planets ostensibly influence us. But at the same time we are told that man really determines; in other words, the stars indicate, but man then makes the decision. So the whole interest in astrology is a marvelous system whereby man can justify his weaknesses. “Well, I am an Aries, or I’m a Capricorn,” and so on, “and that explains why I am the particular type of stinker I am.” But at the same time we are not bound by astrology, so that we can feel free to go our own way and do as we please. The popularity of astrology is a good illustration of the fact of sin.


[Audience Member] Your comments on inflation in the near future?

[Rushdoony] I would hesitate to predict anything on the short term, six months. I feel that basically in the next four years we are going to see dramatic inflation as a false and humanistic economy falls apart; I understand that recently Dr. Hans Sennholz predicted that by the end of the next presidential term probably we would see gold at $2,500 an ounce, and silver at $150. I think that is a very reasonable assumption, given the present trend and the present indication of what the next administration will be like from the various primaries. Now, hopefully perhaps something will change; but it doesn’t seem that way at present. So we are going to see more and more inflation as the humanistic economy falls apart.


[Audience Member] How can non-postmillennialists cope with the present crisis?

[Rushdoony] Yes, if a man does not have a sound doctrine of last things, he is going to say: “There is nothing I can do about it.” But the whole point of Scripture is that man is required to do something about it, and our Lord says emphatically: “Occupy till I come.” So that quietism is the antithesis of biblical faith, and false eschatologies do lead very often to quietism. Yes?

[Audience Member] Can you comment on those who register as churches to evade taxes?

[Rushdoony] That has reference to something that is widely advertised, the Universal Life Church for example, you can write in, and for a nominal sum, what is it, $25, I think it was originally $10, be ordained as a priest, a rabbi or a minister, then you declare your home to be a church and your salary your church income. That is a racket, there are apparently six million people with that type of classification now; the IRS a few years ago went after the Universal Life Church briefly, and I don’t believe it really fought it. They go after us with much more zeal and after Christians. They lost, and they have done nothing about it.

So, that is the present situation. However, right now, currently under pressure and extensive criticism, because what we have been witnessing is the persecution of legitimate churches by the IRS and various state and federal agencies, and not of these groups. Currently, therefore, I know in California at least, the IRS is quietly checking county files to see what properties have lately been reclassified as churches, so perhaps there will be some real action against these fraudulent groups, because I regard them as fraudulent, they are not genuine churches. Yes?

[Audience Member] What do you mean when you refer to being on the verge of great industrial revolution and great Reformation?

[Rushdoony] Yes, one recent meeting I said we were on the verge of a great industrial revolution. I think we are first on the verge of a great industrial revolution, and second on the verge of the greatest Reformation that the world has yet seen, the greatest ongoing movement of the Christian faith. I have gone into the matter of the great Reformation I feel is underway now in the Christian school movement, in churches, and in individuals seeing the wholeness of the faith and applying it to every area of life and thought. With regard to the Industrial Revolution, we are seeing the economy potentially revolutionized by micro electronics. The potential there is enormous. The Federal government is trying to control it as every other industry, and it is not able to do so. There are brilliant young men in this field who can take any regulation and reduce it to nonsense. It will revolutionize things by the end of this century. It will lead to a tremendous industrial revolution, so I think the potential is enormous. The key decade is right now, the eighties. We can overcome, and the battle will be fought in the area of the church and the Christian school, the growing totalitarianism in this country, we will then open the way not only for freedom of religion such as we have not had of late, but also for an industrial revolution. Because one of our problems today is this; one man who is a position to know because that is his field, has said that the oil companies today could drop fifty to seventy percent of their employees, simply by adopting some of the new things in this micro electronic industrial revolution. They are carrying those people as, so to speak, welfare cases because they are afraid of the social consequences of dropping so many people from employment, but given a more free economy they could drop them, and they would be reabsorbed in new enterprises.

However, there is another problem. What are you going to do about the fact that today you have by Federal statistics alone about thirty million illiterates in this country, products of public schools? And many of those who are classified as literate have a very limited ability to read and right. We are less and less geared to unskilled labor, while we are producing more and more unskilled labor. Now how are you going to change that? Not through the public schools. Only as the Christian school increase will that be changed.

Well, the February Nation’s Business in an editorial, two pages long, stated- well, the title of the editorial was: Doomsday for the Public Schools? And it stated, as did another columnist recently, George F. Will, that by the end of the eighties the public schools would be a minority fact on the American scene, that is, unless of course Federal and state regulations and laws succeed in destroying the Christian school movement. Well, you will begin to destroy that illiteracy, you will begin to create more competent peoples who can spearhead the new industrial revolution. There is no question that the products of the public schools are markedly inferior. This is one reason why they do not allow testing increasingly in these Christian school trials, it makes the public schools look too bad. So, the groundwork is being laid for a tremendous flowering of American life, but the key to that is this battle that we’re faced with. If we can get freedom for the church and the Christian school, this country will be turned around.


[Audience Member] Surely symbols used to have a very good and biblical orientation?

[Rushdoony] Yes, your use of the word ‘symbols’ is perfectly good and correct. However, what we have had in the modern world is replacing that older meaning of symbols with a new meaning. The whole world of the unconscious now in the Freudian sense colors modern man’s view of symbols, so that symbols are not related to actual reality, but to drives, impulses, motives that well up out of the unconscious.

It is a process of redefinition, so that when we encounter the use of the word ‘symbol’ in a non-Christian, and unhappily sometimes even in Christians, it has this meaning. You see, what Brown was denying in the quotes I gave from him was that there was any reality behind those symbols.

Well, if there are no further questions, let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always.

1 Is 9:1–7.

2 Pr 12:20.

3 Pr 15:22.

4 Pr 24:6.

5 Stephen H. Gettinger. Sentenced to Die, the People, the Crimes, and the Controversy. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979, 65.

6 Clarence B. Carson, "Lawful Killing in the Barbaric Present," in Chronicles of Culture, January/February, 1980, vol. 4, no. 1, p.17.

7 J.D. Lorenz: Jerry Brown, the Man on the White Horse. (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978). p. 48; c.f. 54.

8 J.D. Lorenz: Jerry Brown, the Man on the White Horse. (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978). p. 48; c.f. 50.

9 J.D. Lorenz. Jerry Brown, the Man on the White Horse. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, 184.

10 J.D. Lorenz. Jerry Brown, the Man on the White Horse. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, 185.

11 J.D. Lorenz. Jerry Brown, the Man on the White Horse. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, 195.

12 J.D. Lorenz. Jerry Brown, the Man on the White Horse. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, 128f.

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