Summary: A consideration of the biblical basis for this beloved Christmas carol.
A young boy once complained to his father that most of the hymns they sang in church were boring to him - too far behind the times - tiresome tunes and meaningless words. His father put an end to his son’s complaints by saying, "If you think you can write better hymns, then why don’t you?" The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross." The year was 1690, and that teenager was Isaac Watts, the writer of "Joy To the World."
"Joy To The World," was Isaac Watts’ attempt to put Scripture to music. The hymn is based on Psalm 98, especially verses 4-9. It is appropriate that Watts chose to put this Psalm to music as he sought to call us to rejoice in our Savior’s birth, since many Bible scholars point out the similarities between this Psalm and Luke 1:46-55, which is commonly known as the Magnificant - the song of praise offered by Mary upon meeting her cousin Elizabeth when arriving for her visit at Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home. Zechariah and Elizabeth had received news of their having a child - John the Baptist, and Mary had been told by the angel of how God would use her to bring the Messiah into the world (Read Luke 1:39-55). Some have suggested that since the underlying themes of Psalm 98 are found all through Mary’s song of praise, that she possibly had meditated upon it as she journeyed to visit her cousin.
Let’s notice the Biblical basis of this great carol of Christmas and the lessons taught us through it. "Joy To the World," is an exhortation to rejoice at the coming of Christ into this world; and we are given three reasons to rejoice in the birth of our Savior.
1. Christ Will Redeem - verse 1; Psalm 98:1-2
This same One who was born in a Bethlehem manger came to bear our sin so that we might be redeemed! Our personal redemption from sin is possible because of Christ’s coming into this world to pay the penalty for our sin. This hymn tells us that because of Christ’s birth, it is possible for all whose "heart prepares him room" to have Him enter in and change their life!
And when one does trust Jesus as his personal Savior, receiving forgiveness of sin, a right relationship with God and a home in heaven, his life is effected in three wonderful ways.
A. He will rejoice in the song of the Lord - v. la
In Revelation 5:9 and 14:3, it is mentioned that the inhabitants in glory sing this new song continuously! But the Psalmist tells us that we don’t need to wait until we get to heaven to sing the Lord’s song, we can do so today! The reason for this is that our redemption involves more than God taking us from earth to heaven one day; it involves God bringing heaven to us on earth today! And with that gift comes joy! (Luke 2:10; John 15:11; 1 Peter 1:8-9; Jude 24-25) As the Gaither’s put it, "The world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away!"
As someone once put it, "The true expression of Christianity is not a sigh, but a song!"
B. He will rely on the strength of the Lord - v. 1b
When one receives God’s free gift of eternal life, he will rely on the fact that his eternal security depends on the One who promised, (READ John 10:27-29)!
C. He will reveal the salvation of the Lord - v. 2
The salvation made possible through the sacrifice of Christ is not only one which can be known (v. 2a); it is one which is shown (v. 2b). I couldn’t begin to tell the number of stories of people who I have heard remark, after a loved one has been converted, "There’s something different about him." A noticeable difference! This is something which should mark the life of every person who has been redeemed by Christ! As someone once put it, "One who is born of God should resemble his Father."
Why did the birth of Jesus bring joy to the world? Because He would redeem!
2. Christ Will Restore - verses 2-3; Psalm 98:3-8
The Psalmist also exhorts us to rejoice at the coming of Christ into the world, not only because he will redeem, but because He will restore. What the Psalmist declares here is the same thought expressed by Paul in Romans 8:19-21. In connection with the redemption of individuals, God will bring about the restoration of all creation!
The birth of Christ, the Psalmist tells us, is evidence of the fact that . . .
A. God has remembered His promise to His people - v. 3