92

Joy to the World (Psalm 98)

Full Text

1 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.

2 Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns: let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 No more let sin and sorrow grow nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

4 He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Isaac Watts (PHH 155) wrote this text as a paraphrase of Psalm 98. He published it in his Psalms of David Imitated (1719) under the heading “The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom.” The paraphrase is Watts' Christological interpretation.
Consequently, he does not emphasize with equal weight the various themes of Psalm 98. In stanzas 1 and 2 Watts writes of heaven and earth rejoic­ing at the coming of the king. An interlude that depends more on Watts' interpreta­tion than the psalm text, stanza 3 speaks of Christ's blessings extending victoriously over the realm of sin. The cheerful repetition of the non-psalm phrase "far as the curse is found" has caused this stanza to be omitted from some hymnals. But the line makes joyful sense when understood from the New Testament eyes through which Watts interprets the psalm. Stanza 4 celebrates Christ's rule over the nations.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The confident and joyful proclamation of this well-loved carol is echoed in the conviction expressed in Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 18 that “our Lord set out on the long road of redemption to reclaim the lost as his people and the world as his kingdom.” As a result, “Jesus ascended in triumph, raising our humanity to the heavenly throne. All authority, glory and sovereign power are given to him” (paragraph 27).
92

Joy to the World (Psalm 98)

Introductory/Framing Text

We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life—
this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it,
and declare to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was revealed to us—
we declare to you what we have seen and heard
so that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
—1 John 1:1-4, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Call to Worship

God is here! The Messiah has come!
We open our eyes to see him and lift our hearts to worship him.
We have come to exalt the name of Jesus, our Savior and King,
and to bring glory to God the Father.
In our worship we demonstrate the mind of Christ
in declaring to God that he is the supreme authority in our lives.
We bow before him in submission to our Lord and King.
Come, worship the Lord!
[Reformed Worship 13:13]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

When the fullness of time had come,
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
in order to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as children.
—Galatians 4:4-5, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.
—Titus 2:11, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The Lord’s grace is sure.
God has looked with favor upon his people
and has redeemed them.
God has raised up a mighty savior
from the house of David.
God spoke through the prophets of old
so that we would be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us.
God has shown mercy and has remembered his promises.
—based on Luke 1:68-72
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

How does the holy conception
and birth of Christ benefit you?
He is our mediator,
and, in God’s sight,
he covers with his innocence and perfect holiness
my sinfulness in which I was conceived.
—Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 36
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Victorious God, all creation lifts its voice in a cacophony of joyful praise.
In your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
you have come to judge the world in truth and equity.
We await his return to make all things new,
joining creation’s chorus with our new songs of praise. Amen.
92

Joy to the World (Psalm 98)

Tune Information

Name
ANTIOCH
Key
D Major
Meter
8.6.8.6.6.8

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

but familiarity enables congregations (regardless of preferred genre or quality of musical leadership) to sing it well. Most hymnals present the hymn in the key of D, however many would find C more comfortable with a transition to the higher key for the final stanza. Indeed, this hymn is familiar enough that musicians can simply start the verse in a new key without any transitional interlude and the congregation will automatically adjust.
 
“Joy to the World” is a perfect song for engaging children in worship. Most children already have the first verse memorized and can sing it with very little practice. Children (and adults!) are often eager to sing “Christmas” songs during the summer; the congregation may be surprised to study the text of this famous hymn and discover its broader appropriateness.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 100)
 
— Tim TenClay
92

Joy to the World (Psalm 98)

Hymn Story/Background

Isaac Watts wrote this text as a paraphrase of Psalm 98. He published it in his Psalms of David Imitated (1719) under the heading “The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom.” The paraphrase is Watts' Christological interpretation. Consequently, he does not emphasize with equal weight the various themes of Psalm 98. In stanzas 1 and 2 Watts writes of heaven and earth rejoic­ing at the coming of the king. An interlude that depends more on Watts' interpreta­tion than the psalm text, stanza 3 speaks of Christ's blessings extending victoriously over the realm of sin. The cheerful repetition of the non-psalm phrase "far as the curse is found" has caused this stanza to be omitted from some hymnals. But the line makes joyful sense when understood from the New Testament eyes through which Watts interprets the psalm. Stanza 4 celebrates Christ's rule over the nations.
 
ANTIOCH borrows ideas from two choruses and a tenor recitative from Handel's Messiah—"Lift Up Your Heads," "Glory to God in the Highest," and "Comfort Ye My People." The hymn tune is essentially an adaptation and arrangement by Lowell Mason, published in his Occasional Psalms and Hymn Tunes (1836). Mason named the tune ANTIOCH after the New Testament city in which the "followers of the Way" were first called Christians.
 
With its exuberant air and melodic repeats and sequences, requiring the repetition of textual lines, ANTIOCH has become an enduring favorite for the Watts text. Sing Stanzas 1 and 3 in harmony and give tenors and basses solid accompaniment on their entries in the third line. Sing stanza 4 in unison, possibly with an alternate harmoniza­tion on full organ.
 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, 1674; d. London, England, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth, he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved in to the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author—writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as con­ducting a voluminous correspondence.
 
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
 
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
 
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

As a child, Lowell Mason (b. Medfield, MA, 1792; d. Orange, NJ, 1872) learned to play every musical instrument available to him. He bought music books and attended a singing school when he was thirteen, and soon began teaching singing schools and directing a church choir. In 1812 he moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he helped to establish the firm Stebbins and Mason, which sold musical instruments in addition to dry goods. Mason also adapted, composed, and harmonized tunes for The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music (1821). This collection was widely used and resulted in public demand for Mason to lead the music at singing schools, concerts, and Sunday school conventions. He moved to Boston in 1827 to become the music director in three churches; later he became the choir director of the Bowdoin Street Church. In 1833 Mason helped to found the Boston Academy of Music, which was instrumental in introducing music education to the Boston public schools in 1838. An advocate of Pestalozzi's educational principles (an inductive teaching method), Mason frequently lectured in England and the United States. A major force in musical education in the United States and in the promotion of European models of church music (as opposed to the southern folk-hymn tradition), Mason also encouraged the change from exclusive psalm singing to the singing of hymns in the churches. In association with Thomas Hastings, George Webb, and others, Mason compiled some eighty hymnals and collections, includ­ing The Juvenile Psalmist (1829), Spiritual Songs for Social Worship (1832), and, most importantly, Carmina Sacra (1841, revised 1852). Mason composed over eleven hun­dred original hymn tunes and arranged another five hundred, mainly from European sources. He derived most of his tune names from the Old Testament.
 
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Genesis 3 records one of the great tragedies in all of Scripture. Adam and Eve sin against God and are banished from the garden as God puts a curse upon the ground. It is a heartbreaking rupture in God’s perfect creation, and it is hard not to read this text without feeling a twinge of despair. And yet, before the curse comes a promise. God declares that the woman shall bear offspring that will crush the head of the serpent. Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God, will come to break the curse, to renew the creation, to make whole what is now broken.
 
 In Psalm 98, all of creation is called upon to make a joyful noise before God, for the Lord will come to “judge the earth,” and restore his creation. We should not fail to see our own hand at work in the destruction of creation, in our sins of waste and decadence. This “judgment of the earth” is, in some part, a judgment of us as caretakers.  But God is merciful and full of grace, and first gives us the Life-giver. In this beautiful hymn, Isaac Watts makes the connection between the coming of Christ into this world as Savior and Redeemer and is coming again as Judge. Christ brings “joy to the world,” a light where there is darkness, growth where there is decay. And we, along with all creation, respond with a song of praise.
 
— Laura de Jong
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