His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful


by George F Spall

An old cartoon depicts a wife acknowledging her husband's comments on the news as he mumbles from the morning paper. Says she: "I don't know why all the nations can't be like one happy family." His answer, muffled by a mouthful of buttered toast, comes quickly: "Trouble is -- they are!"

It has ever been thus, and as things appear, only a miracle can change it -- the kind of miracle to be expected from a Messiah. A MESSIAH? For a long time now the title has conjured up a figure of sublime and superlative abilities. A man? But more than man, surely -- a warrior, armed for war, who will not wound but heal; a ruler, stern and strong but whose virile visage radiates gentleness, cheer and hope; wielding the sword of justice, he would inspire respect and not fear; he would demand action but would be the activator, and would direct all activity into peace and prosperity.

From whence does this hope of mankind come? Who has projected this radiant and hoped-for hero on the dark and somber clouds of humanity's sky? He emerges from the sacred scrolls of Israel's Scriptures, and from nowhere else. If we really wish to identify him, that is the place to look. The simple word 'Messiah' is not to be found there, spelt like that, but its Hebrew original is -- Mashiach , which means the Anointed.

The word Mashiach (Messiah anointed) is found as a noun nearly forty times. Sometimes it is a priest who is anointed, as in Leviticus. Sometimes, a king elect, as in the case of David (in Samuel 16) who was chosen from Jesse's sons when Samuel poured upon him the anointing oil. Or a king, as was Solomon.

The patriarch Jacob was perhaps the first to use the oil in this significant way. Genesis 28:18 says that he poured oil on the pillar he set up for a memorial of his vow. His God acknowledged the dedication: "I am the God of Bethel where you anointed the pillar and vowed" (Genesis 31:13). So the concept of anointing oil entered into Israel's sacred customs and was accepted by Israel's God as a valid and significant act of separation.

Years later, the Tent of the Congregation, or Tabernacle, and its furnishings were sanctified by the same specially prepared oil, and so were its priests and their regalia. Later still, Israel's priests were touched with the unguent and were then known as "the Lord's anointed" . Indeed, it is written that Israel as a nation came into God's special care: "Touch not the Lord's anointed and do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:15).

King David is distinguished as the Lord's anointed in Psalm 18:50: "Great deliverance gives he to his king; and shows mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore."

One of the reasons why the Messiah is thought of as that charismatic figure who is to restore order among the warring nations at the end of the age, is that notable passage that Isaiah penned: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the LORD (JHVH) has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn, to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness ..." (61:1-3).

This entrancing picture presents the only personage who could fill the blank space in the world scene as we know it today, and lighten the deepening shadows of nuclear threat, world-wide inflation, political turmoil, international distrust, and so many wretched enclaves of suffering.

Psalm Two

Why are the nations in an uproar and why do the peoples mutter in vain?

The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed:

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

He that sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord has them in derision.

Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, and affright them in his sore displeasure.

Truly it is I that have established my King, upon Zion, My holy mountain.

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me: You are My son, this day have I begotten you.

Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron: you shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Now therefore, O you kings, be wise; be admonished, you judges of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Do homage in purity, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, when suddenly his wrath is kindled. Happy are all they that take refuge in him.

In this second Psalm as translated by Dr. A. Cohen who edited the Soncino edition of the Psalms, we note the first verse: "Why are the nations in an uproar and why do the peoples mutter in vain? The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed."

Dr Cohen comments: "Commentators, both ancient and modern differ as to whether the subject of the Psalm is the Messianic or a historical king, and if the latter, who he was. Rashi's comment is: 'Our rabbis expound it as relating to King Messiah; but according to its plain meaning it is proper to interpret it in connection with King David, in the light of the statement: And when the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David (2 Samuel 5:17). The succession to the throne of Israel became the occasion of a political crisis which threatened the country with war. The theme of the Psalm is an exemplification of the proverb -- Man proposes; God disposes. If this is part of Psalm 1, or its continuation, we may best regard it as an application of its lesson to the national sphere. Psalm 1 then deals with the TWO WAYS FOR INDIVIDUALS, Psalm 2 with the TWO WAYS FOR PEOPLES.'"

However, we all have the same right as is conceded to rabbis to prayerfully consider the Scripture of Truth for ourselves. Our comment is that the whole Psalm must stand to be considered as a whole, though of course the principle of the TWO WAYS holds good for both psalms. Psalm 2 portrays a scene far wider than the confines of the Philistine country or any other segment of the Land of Israel, and more far reaching in time than the days of David's parochial strife with the Philistines, with whom, after all, he lived.

The Psalm presents a panorama, not a parish. "Why are the nations in an uproar and why do the peoples mutter in vain?" The word for nations here is goyim and is commonly used by Jewish people for any or all of the Gentile nations. Any Philistine would be a goy , but the Philistines are not all the goyim . The word peoples is also used in the plural.

Again, the Land of Israel can be eretz , but in Genesis 1 we are told that God created the heavens and the earth (eretz) . So when the Psalm speaks of the kings taking counsel together against His Messiah, surely a greater than David, is in view, because more than Israel is in view, and more than one nation, Philistia, is in view.

After reverently perusing the sacred text, we ought to turn again to the Scripture quoted in Isaiah and recall that the One who read it aloud that day in the synagogue in Capernaum significantly closed the book after the phrase "to preach the acceptable year of the LORD" and did not read any further. He did not read "and the day of vengeance of our God."

Even more significantly He went on to claim that He himself had come to be the fulfilment of the prophecy, and He went on to do a lot more than talk about it. He DID it. He did everything that He quoted from Isaiah. It was abundantly fulfilled as His contemporaries who saw the miracles that He did testified.

Every account of Him was written by a Jewish pen. And still today miracles of like kind are done in His Name, for as Isaiah says when introducing Him (chapter 9): "His Name shall be called WONDERFUL ..." And so it is.