Monday, December 11, 2006

Joy To The World - Verse 1

It's Christmas time. I'm going to do a Christmas carol. Well, actually, I'm going to take several days to sing a Christmas carol. I'm planning on taking four days (four verses) to examine and expand Joy To The World. Let's see what we can learn from a classical Christmas hymn.

Joy to the World!
From Psalm 98, Adapted by Isaac Watts

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
Psalm 98 says, “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises” (v 4). “Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord” (v 6).

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is the natural result of the recognition of God’s care for us (Psa. 98:1-3; 100). It is commanded repeatedly (Phil. 2:18; 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). Joy to the world!

It is disconcerting to hear secular singers belting out this song because of phrases like this: “The Lord is come; let earth receive her King.” Even we who believe have difficulty calling Him Lord and King, but the song calls on us to “receive” Him. This is the same word used in both a positive and negative sense in John 1:9-13. Negatively, “His own did not receive Him” (v 11). Positively, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God” (v 12). Our normal term today for becoming a Christian is to “accept Christ”, but the biblical term, “receive Him”, carries a fuller connotation. When you “receive” a TV signal, it is processed and displayed. When you have a “reception” for someone, it is to honor him. We are to “receive” our King, to open ourselves to Him, to appropriate and display Him, to honor Him.

“Let every heart prepare Him room.” Luke records that when it came time to deliver Jesus, “there was no room for them” (Luke 2:7). Jesus moves only into places that are vacated for Him. For us to receive our King, we must prepare Him room in our hearts.

The last line of the first verse repeats the phrase “and heaven and nature sing.” We live in a world that has divorced science and religion, the natural from the supernatural. We have divided out God and His world, and classified things as secular or sacred. God doesn’t see it as such. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, His detractors told Him to silence His disciples. He replied, “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40). The language of Scripture includes nature in adoring God (for example, Isa. 55:12). All of nature and all of heaven sing for joy at the coming of the King.

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