The Christmas Names of Jesus – Mighty God


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This is the third article in my 2017 Christmas series, ‘The Christmas Names of Jesus‘, in which I’ll spend the last few weeks before Christmas looking at the various names for Jesus we find in the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, but turning back time for four weeks to the prophecy of Isaiah to look at the child who “will be named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Amongst all the religions of the world, only Christianity makes such a bold and mind-boggling claim as God born into human history for the sole purpose of dying to save those He created. Christianity is alone in this. There are no comparisons, no similarities. Jesus Christ is unique in history.

The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9 heralds part of this uniqueness when it names the “child” to “be born for us” as “Mighty God”. Timothy Keller says “He is Mighty God. He is the Everlasting Father, which means he is the Creator, and yet he is born. There’s nothing like this claim in any of the other major religions. He is a human being. However, he is not just some kind of avatar of the divine principle. He is God!”[1]

We’ll deal next week with “Everlasting Father” – or as some translations have it, Eternal Father – but this week I want to look at the name Mighty God, and what it means for us.

God’s Mightiness “Born For Us”

It can sometimes be easy to skip over the names of God in the Bible and misunderstand what a particular choice of name is trying to say. Take for example Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord Who Provides”. It is not just another fancy name in a long line of them for our God, but rather a testament and clue to His character. It literally means “The Lord Who Will See To It”. Its revelation came as Abraham was about to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, to God (Genesis 22), but the Lord provided a substitute in Isaac’s place. Just as God provided for Abraham in his faith, so too will God provide today for us in our faith.

So, when we look at “Mighty God” what do we see?

First, it applies to the child that “will be born for us” – to Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, and the fulfilment of the line of David. This child is to be named Mighty God – not when He grows older, but at His birth.

Secondly, the child who is Jesus Christ will be called “Mighty”. The Oxford English Dictionary says of mighty – “Possessing great and impressive power or strength, especially because of size.”[2] That’s not bad, though of course it matters not what “size” Jesus is or isn’t, for He is mightiest of all regardless of His size.

Finally, “He will be named … Mighty God.” God. There is no equivocating over what exactly these words mean. The Hebrew word used is el – “the one only and true God of Israel”[3]. Geoffrey W Grogan says that “Mighty God” must be given its “plain meaning”[4] because of its close proximity to Isaiah 10:21:

“The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob,
to the Mighty God.”

The child to be born is the same el who created the universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of David. And He is Mighty!

God “Born With Us”

Just as importantly, however, is the point made above by Timothy Keller. This child is Mighty God “yet he is born.” No religion can compare to the promises and full magnitude of what Christianity preaches; that Jesus Christ is at once God as well as one part of a triune single deity. That He came to Earth as a child and was fully human and yet fully God. “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ.” (Colossians 2:9)

Giving the name “Mighty God” to a child that “will be born for us” is another way to say that God will come among us. Only two chapters earlier, Isaiah writes that, “the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The name Immanuel – which we will look at in more detail in a few weeks – means “God With Us”, el with us.

“For centuries Jewish religious leaders and scholars had known that prophecy, but they had not thought it should be taken literally.”[5] They thought that it was figurative speech for a great political or military leader that would free the Jews from under the might of Rome and set them up as an independent and strong nation of their own. However, the fact that Matthew connects this prophecy with the birth of Jesus Christ means that the Isaiah prophecy “is greater than anyone imagined. It came true not figuratively but literally. Jesus Christ is ‘God with us’ because the human life growing in the womb of Mary was a miracle performed by God himself. This child is literally God.”[6]

God and Jesus, One and the Same

Timothy Keller says, “If the baby born at Christmas is the Mighty God, then you must serve him completely.”[7] The Mighty God came among us and served us, yet He is still God, and His words and deeds are not just the words and deeds of someone who was “a good example” or “a special teacher”. These are the words of God Himself. What else can we do but obey?

This is the child we worship and remember at Christmas. Not just an idea or a representation of an idea. Not just a figment of a mythology or an in-hindsight-adaptation to start a new religion.

The “child … born for us” was prophesied and His names promised millennia ago, His identity promised so that we would know this happened intentionally and in line with God’s plan.

When we think about Christmas and the child at the centre of it all – born in a manger, unlooked for and unwelcomed – remember that this child is God Himself, fully human and fully God, and that He long ago promised His arrival as a child in our midst.

[1] Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller, p. 13
[2] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mighty – accessed 21/11/17
[3] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/410.htm – access 21/11/17
[4] Isaiah, Geoffrey W. Grogan, p. 528 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Revised Edition, Volume 6), quoting S.H. Widyapranawa
[5] Keller, p. 41
[6] Ibid, p. 41-2
[7] Keller, p. 13

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