The Word on the Week

Joy in Jesus

Carols come in three main groups, Tradition – “The Holly and the Ivy” Myth “The Snowman” and Biblical “Joy to the World”. The latter is belted out by every supermarket sound system with scant regard for the words but what a great melody! It’s attributed to Lowell Mason in 1836 with more than a nod in the direction of G F Handel. But the words composed in 1719, when Isaac Watts at age 45, make David the Psalmist sing like a Christian! This is his interpretation of Psalm 98 written at a time when the extermination of Christianity was predicted and persecution of Christians was widespread. Watts, like true believers in the West today, saw through the antics of those opposed to God to the fulfilment of the universal availability of the Gospel of God’s redeeming love in Christ. The first two stanzas predict the flow of redemptive history breaking out of its Jewish mould to encircle the world. Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing. Verse 2 Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy. Clearly Watts rejoices in verse 1 at the fact of Jesus coming to earth with the invitation for people to open their hearts to receive Him. In verse 2 he sees the Saviour, conquering sin and death, now reigning at the right hand of the majesty on high. Creation rejoices at His salvation. Verse 3 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. Verse 4 He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love. The last two verses have the second coming of Jesus in view. In a Biblically illiterate world the 3rd verse is usually omitted as few people would have heard of God’s curse on the ground as one of the results of the fall and cannot anticipate its joyous reversal when Christ comes again. The last verse points to the righteous rule and reign of Christ in the new earth when the “Thy Kingdom come” request of the Lord’s prayer is completely fulfilled. St John writing in Revelation Chapter 11 verse 15 catches the completion of salvation – “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” and Watts has us sing it out!