Joy to the World!

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!

Psalm 98:4-6

One of the most popular Christmas carols is "Joy to the World," the words of which were written by Isaac Watts in 1719. Yet, in fact, he did not intend to write a Christmas hymn at all. "Joy to the World" was originally the second part of a two-part hymn based on Psalm 98. It appeared in a collection of hymns called: The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. Each of these compositions was based on one of the Psalms as seen in a Christian perspective.

Psalm 98 celebrates God's saving work. Yet, unlike the psalms that focus exclusively on God's revelation to Israel, Psalm 98 commemorates the fact that "the LORD has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation!" (98:2). Even the Gentiles have seen God's victory. Therefore Psalm 98 invites everybody, Jew and Gentile alike, to "Shout to the Lord" and "break out in praise and sing for joy" (98:4).

What Psalm 98 celebrates in anticipation has begun to be fulfilled in Jesus. He came as the Savior of the whole world. Yet Jesus brought God's salvation to Israel in particular, though in a most unexpected way and, by many, unappreciated way. He came both to execute judgment and to be judged and executed. As a result of his sacrifice, God's salvation is offered to all peoples, both Jew and Gentile.

Thus, from a Christian perspective, the vision of Psalm 98 is joyful news for all people. God has been faithful to his chosen people and, through them, for indeed Jesus was a Jew, God has been gracious to all humanity. As Isaac Watts wrote, all people ought to prepare room for Jesus, the King of the whole earth, and rejoice at his coming.

Like Psalm 98, "Joy to the World" looks ahead to the fullness of salvation yet to come. In our world, sins and sorrows still grow, and thorns still infest the ground. The curse of sin has been broken, but the results of sin are still with us. Thus when we sing "Joy to the World" we look back to the first coming of Christ, celebrating his birth and the salvation it makes possible. At the same time, we look forward to the day when the impact of sin will be erased, and all nations will prove the glories of God's righteousness and the wonders of his love. In this hope we rejoice.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think about the coming of Jesus, our Savior, how does this help you to rejoice? In what parts of life do you yearn to experience more of the victory of God?


Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry 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 earth! 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 sins 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.

Amen and Amen!