Celebrating the Victory of God

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Laity 1

Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!

Psalms 98:4

Psalm 98 celebrates the power and victory of God. It calls us to praise him because of what he has done to save the world. In fact, Psalm 98 beckons creation itself to join in the song of praise, including the sea, the rivers, and the hills.

Almost three centuries ago, Psalm 98 inspired an English hymn writer, who published a collection of his composition based on the Psalms. Most all of Isaac Watts’ hymns have been long forgotten, except a few. One of these, based on Psalm 98, remains popular today. In fact, I'll bet you could sing at least one verse from memory.

That hymn is the favorite Christmas carol, “Joy to the World.” If you take the words of the carol and lay them alongside Psalm 98, you’ll see many parallels. For example, the root of “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” is found in verse 4: “Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy.”

But there is one significant difference between Psalm 98 and the carol we know and love. From the perspective of the psalmist, the world should celebrate because “the Lord is coming to judge the earth” (98:9). The celebration anticipates God’s visit to earth as judge and savior. Isaac Watts wrote about that visit. In Jesus, the Lord did come to earth. And he did judge the earth, finding it guilty of sin. But, amazingly, he also took upon himself the penalty for sin. This expression of divine love goes beyond what is stated in Psalm 98. Thus, in light of the saving work of God in Christ, the final verse of “Joy to the World,” exalts “the glories of his righteousness, and wonders of his love.”

Now, I realize it might seem odd to focus on "Joy to the World" in the middle of lent. But Isaac Watts did not write “Joy to the World” as a Christmas hymn. Though it has found a rightful home in the canon of beloved carols, the truth expressed in “Joy to the World” is appropriate for any time of year. Even in Lent we should praise God with joy for his victory and salvation. Even today, we can receive Jesus as our king by honoring him in all that we do. Thus, it is fitting to “shout to the Lord” because of who he is and all he has done.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you experienced the victory of God in your life? What does it mean to you to relate to Jesus as your king? Do you worship with joy? Do you ever shout to the Lord?

PRAYER: Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room;
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing.
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness.
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts (1719, public domain)



Sports for the Glory of God

If God has created humanity with bodies that are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” we need to develop a Christian way of living that incorporates play and recreation, leisure and competition, sports and athletics. Faith in the Creator and Redeemer should lead us to identify the way sports and athletics are meant to be, discern when something is wrong with sports in our broken and sinful culture, and imagine ways to be instruments of redemption in this sphere. In this series, Sports for the Glory of God, we engage with stories of people who are working through these issues on a daily basis.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.

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