“JOY TO THE WORLD”

Wayne S. Walker

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth…” (Psa. 98.4)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which encourages us to make a joyful noise unto the
Lord because of the coming of Christ to this earth is “Joy To The World”
(#495 in “Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Isaac
Watts (1674-1748).  It first appeared, entitled “The Messiah’s Coming and
Kingdom” in his 1719 “Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New
Testament” as his version of Psa. 98.4-9.  Thus, the song is taken from
the Psalm, but it is more than just a metric rendering.  Watt’s intention
was to take the language of each Psalm and apply it to the teachings of
the New Testament.

     The tune (Antioch) is said to be based on music composed by George
Frederick Handel (1685-1759).  A native German who settled in England, he
produced his most famous work, the oratorio “Messiah” in 1741, and it was
first performed in 1742.  This music appears to have been arranged from
various phrases in several sections of Handel’s “Messiah” by Lowell Mason
(1792-1872).  It is dated 1836 and first appeared in hi “Modern
Psalmist,” published in 1839 at Boston, MA, with the note that it was
“from Handel.”

     This hymn offers several reasons why we can be joyful.

I. According to stanza 1, we should be joyful because the Lord is come
 A. To say “the Lord is come” simply means that He has come and the
effect of His coming is still with us: 1 Tim. 1.15
 B. He came to be our King: Rev. 19.16
 C. Therefore, every heart should make room to receive Him: Jn. 1.11-12

II. According to stanza 2, we should be joyful because the Savior is
reigning
 A. This doesn’t picture some millennial reign of Christ on earth after
His second coming, but His present reign from heaven over His spiritual
kingdom, the church, as Peter preached on Pentecost: Acts 2.30-36
 B. Even the fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains acknowledge the
Lordship of Christ over the earth: Psa. 148.7-9
 C. And as a result of what the Lord has done, we can be filled with joy:
Phil. 4.4

III. According to stanza 3, we should be joyful because He makes His
blessings flow
 A. The earth has been cursed by sin: Rom. 3.23
 B. However, Jesus came to offer mankind relief from the spiritual effect
of sin through the blessings that He brings: Eph. 1.3-7
 C. And these blessings are available as far as the curse is found: Gen.
3.17-18

IV. According to stanza 4, we should be joyful because He rules the world
with truth and grace
 A. Because Jesus died and is now on His throne at the right hand of God,
He makes his grace to abound wherever the curse of sin abounds: Rom.
5.20-21
 B. And He wants all nations to hear the gospel message of salvation: Mt.
28.18-20
 C. As a result, people of all nations can experience the wonders of the
love of Him who tasted death for everyone: Heb. 2.14-15.

     CONCL.:  Some tinkering with this great hymn has been attempted.  A
Seventh-Day Adventist hymnbook focused it on the second coming of Christ
by changing the first line to say, “Joy to the world!  the Lord will
come.”  The 1838 “Social Hymns for the Use of Friends of the Rational
System of Society” sought to remove entirely the concept of divine
incarnation by altering the first stanza to read, “Joy to the world!  the
light has come, The only lawful King:  Let every heart prepare it room
And moral nature sing.”
     Many people consider this a “Christmas carol” and sing or even think
of it only during the so-called holiday season.  I once led it on a warm
Sunday morning and one brother later remarked that it made him cooler
just singing it!  As a result of this, some brethren object using the
song at all for this reason.  However, neither Watts nor Handel had any
idea of celebrating “Christmas” by their words or music.  The hymn can be
sung at any time as a joyful proclamation of of praise to Christ for His
coming to save sinful mankind.  Indeed, our message to the whole earth
should be that in Christ there is truly “Joy to the World.”

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