What sort of ruler will Christ be and what is expected of us as we prepare ourselves to reign as kings and priests? There’s an interesting answer to that question in our reading in Isaiah 11, which is a vision of the Kingdom. At the beginning of the chapter we read about the spirit with which Christ will rule: “the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (v.2). There are seven spirits listed in this verse, which forms the following chiastic structure:
A spirit of the LORD
B spirit of wisdom
C spirit of understanding
X spirit of counsel
C` spirit of might
B` spirit of knowledge
A` spirit of the fear of the LORD
There is some definite parallelism between the terms here, but why is counsel right in the middle? To answer this question, look at how the prophet uses the analogy of a tree in the first verse of the chapter. Jesus is the root and the branch of that tree, the Son of God and the Son of Man, and it’s interesting to look at the seven spirits in terms of the growth of a tree. The (A) elements in the structure relate to the roots of the tree, (B) to its growth, (C) the trunk of the fully-grown tree and then (X) – counsel – that’s the fruit.
Jesus is the Son of God and therefore is deeply rooted in the things of God, as all of us should be. Without good roots the tree will not grow and so our starting point is the fear of the LORD. Next comes wisdom and knowledge, both of which are based on the fear of the LORD. Proverbs says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) and “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). Without it being rooted in the things of God, and reverence for God, none of the wisdom and knowledge we attain will amount to anything. It must be God’s knowledge and God’s wisdom for the tree to grow. Jesus himself “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom” (Luke 2:40) and Peter tells us we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). It’s then we can grow into a strong tree, and the next part of the parallelism – might and understanding. Understanding comes when we finally “get” it, things click into place and we are in tune with God’s purpose, solidifying the wisdom and knowledge we have developed. Paul brings out the importance of understanding and might when he says, “that their hearts be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2) and “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10). This is the trunk of the fully-grown tree, firmly rooted, stable, standing upright and tall, a fully mature person of integrity.
It is only then that the tree can bear fruit, and its fruit is counsel. That’s the whole point of the tree, the outworking of it all. Just like faith without works is dead, so the spiritual tree without fruit is useless. Counsel brings with it the utmost responsibility. How can we advise someone what they should do with any authority unless we are rooted in the fear of God, grown in wisdom and knowledge and become strong in understanding? To get an idea of the importance of counsel have a look at the very first occurrence of the word translated “counsel” which is in Exodus 18 when Jethro himself gave Moses counsel regarding what sort of men he should look for to be able to give counsel to others. Moses was having problems when he “sat to judge the people” (v13) because he was doing it all alone. When Christ brings justice to the nations, he will have us to accompany him, so what sort of people ought we to be if we want to join him? Jethro said, “I will give you advice” (counsel, v.19), and his counsel was to find “able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times” (v.21-22). That is, look for men of integrity. The word “able” here is the same as the word translated “virtuous” or “excellent”, describing the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. Jethro’s counsel was right: to help administer justice in the earth we need to be trustworthy and virtuous men and women who are rooted in the fear of Yahweh. Just like these men in Moses’ time we are going to be given enormous responsibility in the kingdom age. Instead of being “chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens” we’ll be given charge over cities, but the same principle applies. In the parable Jesus said “well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17). Being faithful stewards in our families and ecclesias now is training for the greater responsibility we shall bear in the kingdom. So, let’s make sure we develop the kind of respect for God where we grow in wisdom and knowledge, becoming strong in our understanding. That way we’ll be able to counsel others now and look forward to what we’ve been called to do in the Kingdom.
Simi Hills, CA