Joy to the World – Pt. 2

jtw2Part 1 of this series briefly introduced the history of this celebrated and widely known hymn. What I found amazing was that Watts never intended for this song to be a celebration of Christ’s first coming, but of  His second coming.  Nevertheless, when we consider every aspect of Christ’s ministry, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension and His return, the integration of these aspects is crucial and cannot be divorced from one another.  Therefore, during the Christmas season, it is entirely fitting to celebrate the  redemptive victory that Christ will accomplish.

The second verse of this hymn almost mirrors the idea of the first verse. It says-

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.

The Call to Praise

The first verse of this song is a call to praise for the coming of Jesus.  Similarly, verse two contains praise, but for a different reason. Praise ensues because in addition to Jesus coming, He will rule all of creation and His kingdom will be forever (2 Sam. 7:8-13, Dan. 7:13-14).  

Reason for Praise

Unless we understand what is wrong with the world, we will not see the reason to be overjoyed about the coming and ruling of Jesus.  Genesis 3 tells us what went wrong with the world – man rebelled (sinned) against his creator and God cursed man and all of creation as a result. Instead of a harmonious loving relationship, man’s relationship with God was broken and the created order was subject to disorder as well.  As previously mentioned, the Scriptures remind us that although  we and creation groan as a result of the curse, there is hope.  Romans 8:20-24 says- 

“…the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.  

 In addition to that curse, the world is presently under the power of the evil one (1 Jhn. 5:19). Because of Adam’s sin, the devil is the ruler of this world (Jhn 12:31, 16:11; Eph. 2:2, 2 Cor. 4:4) So how will it be set free from this bondage to corruption? Who will do it?

There was an ultimate reason to Christ’s incarnation – redemption.  He came to destroy the devil and his works (Col. 2:15; 1 Jhn 3:8), absorb the wrath of God on behalf of His people (Isa. 53) and gather His people into a new family (Jhn. 10:11-16; Rev. 7:9-10)!  Christ entered humanity, lived as a man under the Law, and yet died as one who had violated the Law becoming a curse in the place of guilty man. And in His becoming the curse for us, He lifted the curse from all of creation. His redemption is cosmic! All of creation will one day be under the glorious rule of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that Psalm 98 pictures Jesus as the celebrated Savior (98:1-3), King (98:6) and Judge (98:9).  At the second coming of Christ, there will be no more disharmony and disunity between God and all of His creation.  While in exile, the Apostle John was given a vision from Jesus concerning the future. Revelation 21 says –

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Sin and its effects will be forever gone. There will be a new heavens and new earth unaffected by sin. God and man will be forever reconciled. Death, mourning, crying and pain shall forever be gone. All groaning (Rom. 8:20-24) will turn to triumphant praise! This is the hope we have to look forward to! This is why the song says –

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.

All of creation will praise Christ eternally for his work of redemption from the curse and the works of the devil.

Our Response at Christmas

In light of this truth, may we rejoice at the birth of our Savior! Praise God for His indescribable gift! Rejoice because salvation has come and is coming!

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Merry Christmas!

Joy to the World – Pt. 1

jtwIn 1719, Isaac Watts penned what has become one of the most famous hymns sung during the Christmas season. Known as the Father of  English Hymnody, Watts often wrote his hymns based on the Psalms.  His theological propensity led him to write The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. This work was a collection of paraphrased Psalms and his paraphrase of Psalm 98 is what we know as Joy to the World.

Psalm 98 is known as a royal psalm. Royal psalms are psalms that describe the kingship of Jesus Christ.  This psalm is a call for praise to the LORD for His salvation (v2) and for His judgment (v9) at Jesus’ second coming. Joy to the World was specifically written around verses 4-9 , which means that this hymn is not about Christ’s first coming (1st Advent), but His second coming (2nd Advent). While we typically sing this song during the Christmas season, Watts did not intend to have this song sung during the Christmas season. It is appropriate for every day of the year. You’ll notice the incarnation of Jesus is not mentioned in this song, but the culmination of redemption is, in which all of creation praises Jesus for his deliverance from the curse of sin. That is the point of Joy to the World.

However, since this song is widely associated with the Christmas season, I believe examining the truths found in the lyrics will be of great encouragement. In four parts (consistent with the number of verses in the song), I want to expose the beauty of these truths and I pray this is beneficial to the reader. So let’s start by examining the first verse-

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing.

When we consider the 2nd Advent of Jesus Christ, who are the joyous ones? We know from Matthew 24:30, Revelation 19:11-15 that Jesus’ second coming will be a time where Jesus will finally defeat all His enemies. He will come as a conquering king, deposing all earthly kings and anyone else set against Him, including Satan.  But the call for joy is for God’s people who experience the consummation of their salvation. Believers will fully recognize their King and gladly submit. This is what it means for our hearts to prepare Him room.  Also, we will rule and reign (2 Tim. 2:12) with Christ and forever be reconciled with our Creator (Rev. 21:3).

Not only will humanity be reconciled to God and submitted to the authority of Jesus, but all of creation will be as well. Romans 8:20-21 says, For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Creation itself is presently under a curse, but it too longs for salvation from the curse that it was subjected to (Gen. 3:17-19). All will be right with the world, particularly in the new heavens and new earth, when Christ comes back to complete the establishment of his eternal kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12-13) where there will be no traces of sin and its effects (Isa. 65).  This is what is meant by the earth receiving her king. Creation will sing joyous praise as it realizes its deliverance from the curse by its King, Jesus. The end result of the salvation to come is heaven and nature singing. I take heaven to mean the angels. Nature will be figuratively singing (Ps. 98:7-8) as it exists free from corruption, but I believe the angels will be forever rejoicing and praising Jesus for His work of redemption and for bringing all of creation under His rule (Rev 5:9).

The second coming of Christ will be a day of great praise for God’s people, but we must not forget the importance of Christ’s first coming. It was His first coming that began the work of redemption for His people and creation. In His living, dying, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, Jesus conquered sin and death and ceased the hostility between God and His people.  Jesus came on a mission to die for His people to bring them to everlasting glory (Tit. 2:13). This is the reason for our joy!

Merry Christmas!

His Sovereignty, Our Hope

God moves in a mysterious way. His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm

by William Cowper (1731-1800)

sov·er·eign One that exercises supreme, permanent authority.

That is GOD!  Failing to understand this characteristic of God handicaps our ability as believers to make sense our lives in light of Romans 8:28 which says:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

The sovereignty of God is a doctrine that has been widely discussed and debated, particularly as it pertains to salvation. However, my focus is the sovereignty of GOD in sanctification, especially in suffering.  How does one make sense of the goodness of God through suffering, pain or affliction? How is one comforted? Think about the afflictions Job suffered. Yet he managed to confidently say,

“the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD…. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

(Job 1:21b, 2:10b)

How can Job say, “blessed be the name of the LORD” after all of his children, belongings and health had been severely stricken? He saw Him who is invisible.

Our verse in Romans 8 says all things work together for good, not all things are good. All things – blessings and ‘misfortunes’ alike are filtered through the sovereign hand of God for one end, that you “be conformed to the image of His Son,…” (Romans 8:29). Lay hold of this unchangeable fact! God in His omniscience knows perfectly how to sanctify us for His predetermined purpose to make us holy and blameless in His sight.  He strips us of things or people that hinder our maturation, allegiance and fellowship with Him. Many times we are ignorant of the toxins in our lives and He lovingly removes them for our good and the good of others.  Sometimes He uproots us and replants us in other places that will bring about the best fruit in our lives. Vinedressers prune the vine’s branches for more fruit and health maintenance.

Consider the sovereignty of God in the agonizing crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ. From the natural eye, it was cruel, unjust and unwarranted for the Innocent to be executed. From heaven’s perspective, Peter boldly claims,

“This man [Jesus Christ] was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” 

(Acts 2:23)

And Isaiah 53:10 says,

“Yet it pleased the LORD(Yahovah) to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.”

For what purpose? For this.

“He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

(Isaiah 53:12b)

What seems as something terrible is often God’s magnificent plan unfolding! We must come to a place to count it worthy to accept the suffering God allows so He can be glorified and we can be changed by it.  Our comfort through the suffering rests in the fact that God is sovereign, able to sustain us and see us through it.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…”

(Malachi 3:3a)  

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The Theology of the Cross

 

“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him…” (Isaiah 53:10)  

 

Antinomy is defined as a contradiction between principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable.  This is seen more clearly when these contradicting principles or conclusions are part of one scenario.  How do we make sense of or respond to situations that contain opposing viewpoints, yet both seem valid, reasonable and beneficial?  As a simple illustration, imagine a mom taking candy away from her three year old child who is intensely enjoying the taste of it.  At that point a contradiction of thought has just emerged and the child will quickly express his/her disapproval.  To the child the mother seems cruel for taking away this reasonable pleasure.  To the mother she is reasonably restricting the intake of something that could bring her child displeasure.  How can something that we believe is good actually be harmful?  How can something we perceive as bad actually turn out for our good?

 

 

The Cross 

 

The cross is the greatest example of antinomy in human history. How can such a brutal event turn out for good?  The theology of the cross will humble you as the Holy Spirit teaches you its depth and the wisdom of God. Here in Isaiah 53, a Messianic prophecy, we read that it pleased the LORD to bruise the Son.  What you know or what you don’t know about God will gauge your reaction to this truth.  If you misunderstand God’s love then you may wonder why it pleased Him to crush Jesus.  If you understand God to be a God of justice, you may still wonder why He crushed Jesus, the Sinless One.  Yet it pleased the LORD to crush Him.  How can this be? How can the Holy One of Israel also be an object of God’s wrath?  How can the Sinless One become our sin bearer that the sinful might become the righteousness of God?  Jesus counted the Father’s will as the most important task in His life, even death on the cross. The Father chose the elect to be saved to the extent that He sent the Sinless One to bear His wrath for us. This magnifies God’s love, grace and mercy. To see His righteousness vindicated and us as vessels of mercy is why it pleased the LORD to bruise the Son. Also, to see the Son raised, exalted and worshipped by all creation is why it pleased the LORD to bruise His Son.

 

What we see is divine grace disguised as bitter providence. Joseph experienced it. Abraham experienced it as well as many others.  God’s love and will works through perceived mishaps or failures or frustrations.  We need to have our perspectives constantly adjusted to the sovereignty of God to understand those “contradictions” in our lives.  We also need to understand by faith that these antinomies are working spiritual life in us by extracting death from us, our flesh.  If God bruised the Son, we can count on God “bruising” us. And let us not forget that it pleases Him in a glorious way. These bruisings from God are meant for our good!  May Jesus’ words be our very own in these moments of bruising, “…not my will, but Yours be done.”

 

As we continue to run this race we will encounter the hurdle of antinomy, but let us ponder the theology of the cross and rejoice for “the works of his hands are faithful and just;..” (Psalm 111:7a)

 

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