Soccer extraordinaire Pele's real name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. He passed away just after Christmas this past year, but his outstanding legacy remains. And, apparently, he hated his nickname, "Pele," for a long time!
He liked his real name, because he was named after Thomas Edison. His schoolmate nicknamed him and Pele got in a fight with him over it (https://www.marca.com/en/football/2022/12/29/63ae0872268e3e12298b45b9.html)!
It wasn't until he learned what his name meant in Hebrew (because it means nothing in his native Portuguese) that he came to love it.
Pele means "miracle, wonderful."
This is one of the words used to describe Christ in Isaiah 9:6, made globally famous through Handel's Messiah:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I'm coming back to studying the Names of God, and I never knew that this verse is considered to reflect one giant name or title: Pele-joetz-el gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom, or Wonderful Counselor-Mighty God-Everlasting Father-Prince of Peace.
Rabbi and Biblical Scholar Joseph Herman Hertz once wrote, "This clearly indicates that the 'crown prince' is the person referred to pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom. i.e. Wonderful in counsel is God the mighty, the Everlasting Father, the Ruler of Peace" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom). Now, Jews and Christians don't agree that this passage refers to Christ, but I will be taking that stance here given that Christianity has always interpreted this passage as being Messianic.
Wonderful Counselor. I always thought that this name meant that Jesus was a really great counselor, as in, He's really good at giving us wise counsel. And that's not far off, since joez or yo'etz does mean royal counselor. It's the same word used to describe King David's personal counselor/royal advisor Ahithophel.
The issue is the word, "wonderful." Our modern English has diminished the original meaning, but Pele was right. It's more akin to "miracle." As in incomprehensible, or full of wonder.
That Isaiah calls the Messiah the “Wonderful Counselor” indicates the kind of character this coming King has. The word wonderful in this passage literally means “incomprehensible.” The Messiah will cause us to be “full of wonder.” The word is much weightier than the way it’s used in normal conversation today—we say things are “wonderful” if they are pleasant, lovely, or the least bit likable. Jesus is wonderful in a way that is boggling to the mind. The same word for “wonderful” is used in Judges 13:18 when Manoah, Samson’s father, asked the LORD (in a theophany) what His name was. The angel of the LORD responded, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” In other words, “Why do you ask my name, since it is beyond your understanding?”
Jesus is beyond our understanding and just thinking about Him should cause us to feel full of wonder. We know we're off-base in our view of Christ if we've made Him mundane in our eyes. Philippians 2:10 says that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth." Amen!
And He is our Wonderful Counselor. GotQuestions.com continues,
Christ’s position as our Wonderful Counselor means we can trust Him to listen to our problems and guide us in the right direction (Proverbs 3:6). We can be sure He is listening because He told us to pray to Him about our worries (Philippians 4:6; James 1:5). We can be certain He has our best interests at heart because He loves us (1 John 4:19). And His love is so wide and deep (and wonderful) that we cannot fully understand it (Romans 5:8).
Charles Spurgeon preached multiple sermons on Isaiah 9:6 (that is just so Spurgeon-y of Spurgeon to do that--love it!), and every one of them is a power-packed stunner. In his sermon "His Name--Wonderful!"(https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/his-name-wonderful/#flipbook/), he said,
I find that this name may bear two or three interpretations. The word is sometimes in Scripture translated "marvellous." Jesus Christ may be called marvellous; and a learned German interpreter says, that without doubt, the meaning of miraculous is also wrapt up in it. Christ is the marvel of marvels, the miracle of miracles. "His name shall be called Miraculous," for he is more than a man, he is God's highest miracle. "Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh." It may also mean separated, or distinguished. And Jesus Christ may well be called this; for as Saul was distinguished from all men, being head and shoulders taller than they, so is Christ distinguished above all men; he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, and in his character, and in his acts he is infinitely separated from all comparison with any of the sons of men. "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips." He is "the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely." "His name shall be called the Separated One," the distinguished one, the noble one, set apart from the common race of mankind.
It's so perfect that Isaiah starts out this giant title for Jesus with Wonderful Counselor, because it helps to orient us to what will be coming next. For example, how do we understand Christ as Everlasting Father if we first don't get our minds in the right place about how unique and wonderful He is? He may be "Jesus our brother, kind and good," as the hymn says, but that is not all He is.
Spurgeon preached that Jesus is Wonderful because of what He was in the past, and He is called wonderful by those of us in the present, and, finally, He's wonderful for "what he shall be" in the future.
First, the Son predates the Incarnation. The Nicene Creed says that He is "the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the world. Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made: who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." Also, John 1:1-5 (one of my favorite Bible passages!) tells us,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
When we picture creation, as described in Genesis 1, we probably picture God the Father, as Creator, right? First of all, that's a problem because that passage literally describes God as Spirit "hovering over the waters." So, picturing God the Father on His throne issuing commands from heaven doesn't jibe with the Scriptural account. God is already close to His creation. He is not a God far-off. And, He is Spirit.
But when we picture God creating, do we see Father, Spirit, Son working completely together to create every atom, every cell, all things? And not just the things themselves but the very possibility of all things then and in the future? Space and time, as well as all present and future human, plant, and animal development? Because this is what the Bible tells us. When we learn that God created the heavens and the earth, John 1 reminds us that that refers to Jesus as much as God the Father. God is One.
When we think about God, we need to beware of diminishing our view of Christ in order to elevate our view of God the Father. God is holy, His Name is holy. And that means that the Son is holy and His Name is holy.
He is Wonderful Counselor, not solely in the sense that He's there to help us out when we're in a pinch, although in His great kindness and love He does want us to approach Him with all of our cares and concerns. But that doesn't mean that His status is the equivalent of those of us in psychology. Counseling is a wonderful profession and brings a great deal of healing and hope to people. But, Jesus is not the equivalent of a professional counselor. This Name also means that He is holy, set apart, truly one-of-a-kind unique, beyond understanding, beyond wonder, miraculous in every sense. That's the Divine Counselor that we have, that we can come to know, even if in the very limited sense that we can know Christ this side of heaven.
Jesus is also Wonderful for us in our present. Spurgeon asks, "Is He wonderful to you?" Have you allowed yourself to personally experience Christ, opening yourself up to Him, opening the door of your heart to Him? Or do you withhold yourself from Him, saving back some part of yourself that you don't want Him to touch? Just as He did when He came to earth to heal and to save, He asks permission before healing. He is gentle and lowly, meek and mild. And, at the same time, He is that awesome figure we meet in Revelation, the Figure that, when His very good friend the Apostle John saw Him, "fell at his feet as though dead" (Revelation 1:17).
This is our Wonderful Counselor, the incomprehensible Paradox, the Miracle, the Wonder that is Christ the Lord.