#096: What Three Critically Important Questions Does Psalm 98 Answer?

This is one of my favorite times of the year because I love Christmas music, especially hymns. One of my favorite hymns is Joy to the World! I have a hard time signing this hymn without a lump forming in my throat and a tear forming in the corner of my eye.

Joy, Psalm 98

Joy to the World! was written and published by Isaac Watts in 1719 in his book Psalms of David Imitated. It is a paraphrase of Psalm 98. So let’s take a look at this important Psalm that inspired Joy to the World!

Psalm 98 Answers Three Important Questions

Psalm 98 consists of three stanzas of three verses each:

1  Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
2  The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

4  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5  Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6  With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

7  Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!
8  Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together
9  before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (ESV)

Each group of three verses answers one important question:

  • Why should we praise the Lord (Verses 1-3)?
  • How should we praise the Lord (Verses 4-6)?
  • Who should praise the Lord (Verses 7-9)?

Why should we praise the Lord?

We should praise the Lord because of His redemption (v. 1), the revelation of His redemption (v. 2), and because of His love and faithfulness to mankind (v. 3).

How should we praise the Lord?

We should praise the Lord with a joyful song singing His praises (v. 4), and we should praise the Lord with a variety of musical instruments in an expression of praise to Him (vv. 5-6).

Who should praise the Lord?

Everyone in the world and all of nature should praise the Lord in anticipation of His coming and His righteous reign.

Joy to the World!

With Psalm 98 in mind let’s now take a look at the hymn, Joy to the World! The first and second verses speak of the heaven and earth rejoicing at the coming of the king and His reign. Verse three speaks of Christ’s blessings and victory over sin, and verse four celebrates Christ’s righteous rule over all the nations.

Verse 1 Verse 2
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.
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.
Verse 3 Verse 4
No more let sins and sorrows 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.
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.

In these four verses, we see the same three questions answered: Why should we praise the Lord; How should we praise the Lord; and Who should praise the Lord?

I am eternally grateful to Watts for his insight in putting the teaching of Psalm 98 into the hymn Joy to the World! I wonder what he would say if he knew that a hymn that he wrote and published nearly 300 years ago was still bringing joy and hope to people around the world?

Joy to the World! has long been one of the most popular Christmas hymns, but it bears a message that should be sung and celebrated all year long! As we approach this year’s Christmas celebration let us each stop for a moment to consider the critically important truths of Joy to the World! and Psalm 98!

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As always questions and comments are welcome! Do you have a favorite Christmas song or hymn? What is it about it that resonates with you?

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Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God


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