“Joy to the World the Lord Has Come! Let Earth Receive Her King!”
(Psalm 98) Introduction:
Did you know that “Joy to the World” was not originally written as a Christmas carol? It had nothing to do with Christmas. It wasn’t even written to be a song. Isaac Watts was one of the great hymn writers in church history, and I guess nothing shows that better than the fact that he wrote one of his most famous hymns by accident. In 1719, Watts published a book of poems in which each poem was based on a psalm. But rather than just translate the original Old Testament texts, he adjusted them to refer more explicitly to the work of the Messiah Jesus as it had been revealed in the New Testament. One of those poems was an adaptation of Psalm 98. Watts interpreted this psalm as a celebration of Jesus’s role as King of both His Body the faithful Church and of the whole world. More than a century later, the second half of this poem was slightly adapted and set to music to give us what has become one of the most famous of all Christmas carols. The carol is usually sung to an 1848 arrangement by the American composer Lowell Mason.
In the 18th Century the idea of the Church having replaced Israel was widespread within Christendom and many ministers taught and promoted that the promises God made to Israel were now being fulfilled in the Church. However, this doctrine of replacement theology is not Biblical. The Bible never makes a radical separation between Israel and the Church, rather it teaches the true Biblical Church is an extension of Israel having been spiritually grafted into the Olive Tree that represents Israel in scripture, but this is a subject in itself. Let’s be clear Biblically speaking, God has not finished with Israel as a nation!
Many of the psalms are prophetic in nature and cover the first and second coming of the Messiah. In fact Psalm 98 not only speaks about the first coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus but its emphasis is on His Second Coming and the establishment of His Messianic kingdom on earth. It also applies to the complete spiritual and national restoration of Israel at the end of this present age. The psalm is addressed to Israel (Vs.3). Also it includes the Body of the Messiah spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel. So it applies to all New Covenant Bible believers in the Messiah our Lord Jesus whether they are ethnically Jewish or Gentile. No let’s look at this psalm.
Psalm 98 Exposition:
(Vs.1-2) “Sing to the Lord a new song,” If we have been spiritually reborn through the work of the Spirit of God and made a new spiritual creation deep down on the inside of us then we will have a new spiritual song to sing. This new song is one that rises up out of our inner spirit man where the Holy Spirit now resides and where our regenerated spirit is joined and fused together as one spirit with the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17). We are a new spiritual creation in the Messiah and the old way of fleshly living is gone and the new way of living in step with the Spirit has come (2 Corinthians 5:17) (Galatians 5:25).
Because we belong to the Messiah our Lord Jesus God’s Word tells us that we have crucified the fleshly nature with its passions and desires in that they no longer control us like they did before we were spiritually reborn from above by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). While we still have our fleshly nature to deal with and this can be extremely hard to bear with at times, if we walk by faith and in step with the Spirit and under the power and protection of the blood of the Messiah, then we will not give in to the desires of the fleshly nature even though they will at times assault our mind, our emotions and especially our will (Galatians 5:16-25).
This new song is a supernaturally produced song, an inner harmony of peace from the Spirit of God knowing that we are free from that which had once afflicted and oppressed us and held us captive, preventing us from expressing that new song of the heart dwelling in the heart of all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Messiah and know that they have received from Him the forgiveness of all of their sins no matter how bad they were in the past. This new song is expressed in and through us when we are filled with the Spirit of God as we speak with each other as brothers and sisters when worshipping with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and as we sing, making music in our hearts as we continue to give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah (Ephesians 5:17-20).
As David in the psalms declares “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3). This is the song of the redeemed; rejoicing in the fact that we have been snatched by the Lord Jesus out of the devil’s clutches and placed into the sheepfold of God’s eternal kingdom.
When the Israelites were delivered at the Red Sea from the power of the Egyptians they sang the song of Moses as they realised that they had been delivered from an enemy they had no power over. In the Book of Revelation we are told that all of us who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and delivered out of Satan’s clutches and out of slavery to sin will also sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb who gave himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father (Revelation 15:3-4) (Galatians 1:4).
Prophetically concerning Israel the remnant of Israel will also sing the song of Moses once again but also sing it to the Passover Lamb the Messiah after they have been delivered out of the hands of the Antichrist and his armies when the Messiah comes back. There will be a new song sung in Israel which will resound around the whole earth in the Messianic Millennial kingdom! This new song can only be sung by the redeemed, by those who having been bogged down in the mire of sin have now been taken out of this spiritual bog and had their feet planted upon the rock of salvation our Lord Jesus the Messiah. As it is written; “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).
Our feet represent our walk in this life! Even though Israel as a nation by and large is still enslaved to the Egypt of this world and aliens to their own covenants of promise the day will come when the Messiah will return “and banish all ungodliness from Jacob!” For Israel it will be “life from the dead!” (Romans 11:15). In that day “all Israel will be saved!” (Romans 11:26-27). God will have a redeemed people singing a new song expressed through an everlasting joy and gladness resting upon them and where sorrow and mourning will have been banished from their presence forever! Why do the redeemed sing this song? Why do they shout for joy to the Lord and serve Him with gladly and come before Him with joyful songs? Well let’s continue…
“…for He has done marvellous things; It is a marvellous and spiritually uplifting experience to bet set free from that work of the fleshly nature which had enslaved us for many years and which we thought we could never be free from. While we saw others set free we ourselves deep down on the inside of us were not free but captive to one or more desires of the flesh or to a particular sin and fleshly tendency which we struggled to overcome even after we had been born again. However, after waiting on God, praying and reading the Word of God, partaking of communion, calling upon the power of Jesus blood, and by asking God and believing Him to enable us to lose interest in it, even though it had held us captive for many years, it suddenly left us!
This is a marvellous thing that God has done! We were set free from its grip! A new song was born deep down on the inside of us and sprang up as a living stream, the song of Moses, the song of sweet victory over an implacable enemy we thought we would never overcome! We received a clean heart before God and a clear conscious before man! It was marvellous in that we thought it was a spiritual affliction from which we could never be free. We also realised afresh by a deeper revelation of the power of Jesus blood to keep us free from that which once so easily entangled us.
When the Messiah returns the surviving remnant of Israel will look upon Him whom they pierced and will weep uncontrollably with tears of repentance and joy and with a new song in their hearts for their salvation from all of their enemies, and from out of the hand of all who have hated and afflicted them. They will gaze upon Him, whom as their Passover Lamb sacrificed for their sins, has redeemed them back to the God of our Forefathers of faith Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! (Luke 1:67-75) (Zechariah 12:10-13:1). In that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great! And then we read more about the marvellous things He has done!
“His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His Righteousness to the nations.” In the Word of God in the Old Testament the right hand or arm of the LORD or his Holy Arm is a direct reference to the Messiah our Lord Jesus and prophetically this psalm is speaking about Him. In the Old Testament when we see references to the Arm of the LORD or to the right hand of the LORD outstretched to do a work or to perform a deed of power, it is the pre-incarnate Messiah before He took upon Himself a flesh and blood body at his incarnation in Mary’s womb. It was He who worked salvation for Israel at the cross and for the whole world. He was the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He is the one who is our advocate with God the Father sitting at His right hand, and the one who intercedes on our behalf before His Father when we do sin, and we all do at times and that grievously. He is not only the atoning sacrifice for our sin but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2: 1-2).
He is a great and perfect intercessor on our behalf before God. As we read; “But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly befits us—One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:24-26). Through the Messiah God has made know His salvation to the whole world and that His eternal Son came into the world to save sinners from the power and penalty of sin and out of the devil’s clutches! We are told in God’s Word that the reason the Son of God was revealed that He might destroy the devil’s work being all sin and bring deliverance from its power and from an eternity separated from God in the lake of fire. (1 John 3:8).
Through the prophets and patriarchs who wrote the Old Testament God revealed His righteous character and standards to the nations and through the sacrificial system of Mosaic Judaism showed how righteous He is in that without the shedding of sacrificial blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. His righteousness was revealed in His laws and commandments given to Moses and revealed through the writings of the prophets. However, God’s perfect righteous nature and character and His righteous standards were fully revealed in the Messiah, a righteousness available to us which we receive when we exercise saving faith in the Lord Jesus and in his atoning blood by which we can receive redemption and forgiveness of sin (Romans 3: 21-26) (Ephesians 1:7). When the Lord Jesus comes back the nations of this world will see God’s righteousness revealed, not as its saviour but as its judge. At it is written; “For He (God) has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:312).
Satan hates the preaching of the Messiah’s resurrection because Satan knows that it exposes his defeat and confronts the unsaved with the reality that they must give an account to the Messiah because He has risen from the dead and has been appointed as the judge of the living and the dead, and of all who have lived, who are now living and who will live in the future up until He is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. On that day He will punish those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the LORD and from the majesty of His power” (2 Thessalonians 2:7b-9).
The unsaved in the nations that reject the righteousness of God and refuse to come to the light being the Lord Jesus for fear of having their evil deed exposed will themselves face a certain and final judgement. As we read in the Book of Revelation; “Then I saw a great white throne and the One seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And there were open books, and one of them was the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their deeds, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead, and each one was judged according to his deeds (Revelation 20:12-13). And then we read…
(Vs.3). “He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Now we see the Psalmist addressing Israel. God remembers His covenants and this is specifically referring to Israel who at present is by and large aliens and strangers to their own covenants of promise but God has not given up on His people. He is loving and kind towards those He has redeemed by the blood of His eternal Son the Messiah of Israel. He is also faithful to what He has promised He will do and never reneges on them! The blood covenant God cut with Abraham and His descendants through Isaac and Jacob was a covenant that was never to be annulled. It was perfectly ratified forever in the blood of the Messiah for Israel’s salvation and for the Body of Messiah the faithful Church spiritually grafted by faith into the Commonwealth of Israel and partakers of the blessings of the New Covenant made with House of Israel and with the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31) (Romans 4:16).
All of the temple sacrifices and offerings made to God by the shedding of innocent blood all pointed to the Messiah whose ultimate sacrifice has ended the need for sacrifices and offerings for sin once and for all time. The Book of Hebrews clearly tells us this. God is kind, loving and faithful and He delights to pardon people for their sins when they come to Him with a penitent heart and with a willingness to be changed spiritually deep down on the inside from one who hates God to one who loves Him with a desire to turn away from all and everything they know in their lives that displeases Him. In fact when one sinner truly repents before God the whole of heaven celebrates! (Luke 15:7, 10)
At the end of this present age after Israel has passed through the Time of Jacob’s trouble the nation will be saved out of it and the Messiah will return to reign from Jerusalem as the King of the Jews and king over the nations of the whole world that have survived his Second Coming. In that day the Kingdom of the Lord’s House will be raised higher than all of the other surviving kingdoms of this world (Jeremiah 30:1-10) (Isaiah 2:1-5). Indeed in that day all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” And then we read…
(Vs.4-6) “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn —shout for joy before the Lord, the King.” In the Word of God we are told in this present age that the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:19-23).
When Adam and Eve the first man and woman fell into sin all of creation was affected by the fall. Animals turned carnivorous, man started to abuse the environment. Today we see this abuse coming to its head with the nuclear waste and chemical pollution by industrial conglomerates. We have seen the environment destroyed by war and famine and by underground nuclear explosions and the earth itself is seeing every living thing in some way affected by the greedy appetites of fallen man abusing the environment to satiate their greed for money and expanding their chemical business enterprises that harm the environment.
In some way even creation itself on land and even under the sea waits for the revealing of the sons of God when the Lord Jesus will come back, which will see the earth cleansed and renewed in the regeneration of all things in the Messianic Millennial kingdom as the Messiah Himself spoke about when He said to His disciples; “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28-30).
The regeneration He speaks about is referring to creation which will also be renewed after He has come back. He makes a clear reference to Israel over which the 12 apostles will be rulers over the nations that will then exist in the Millennial Messianic kingdom under the reign of the Messiah. The word “regeneration” means “the production of a new life consecrated to God, a radical change of mind for the better. The word is often used to denote “the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation, as a renewal or restoration of life after death.”
It can also apply to “the renovation of the earth after the deluge.” It can also refer to “the renewal of the world to take place after its destruction by fire” something Peter mentions in His Second letter. It can also refer to the signal and glorious change of all things (in heaven and earth) for the better, that restoration of the primal and perfect condition of things which existed before the fall of our first parents, which the Jews looked for in connection with the advent of the Messiah, and which Christians expected in connection with the visible return of Jesus from heaven.”
The word can also be used “of the restoration of the Jewish nation after exile.” So it is a comprehensive word but with a consistent theme running through it, namely in its context used by the Lord Jesus, the restoration of the earth to its former state before the fall and prophetically to the restoration of the nation of Israel, hence He also mentions the 12 apostles sitting on thrones judging Israel. And so when the Messiah reigns from Jerusalem the whole earth itself will respond to His reign of righteousness and in His work of regenerating creation itself. The Messiah will Himself turn the earth into a Garden of Eden. Things of course will not be perfect as He will have to rule the nations with a royal sceptre of iron. His law will be the only law and the obedience of the nations will be His! (Genesis 49:10).
And so the psalmist tells us what will happen after the Messiah has come back to sit on His throne at Jerusalem. His redeemed saints will shout for joy to the Lord over all the earth. People will burst into jubilant song with music and make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn as they shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Throughout the Messianic kingdom I imagine there will be choirs and singers and sacred joyful concerts and unending praise and worship accompanied by all kinds of different instruments. The songs of the redeemed saints of God and the praises of the Messiah will circumnavigate the world in that day! Indeed it will be “Joy to the World!”
In the Millennial kingdom generations will be born that did not know about the former age and will need to be taught the laws and commandments of God that will be the foundation of the Messianic kingdom of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah; “Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the Torah will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war” (Isaiah 2:1-4).
Imagine a world without crime, without brothels, nightclubs, drug and alcohol addiction, without divorce, depression, anxiety and every other emotional and psychological problem and sin that afflict men and women and young people, a world without sickness, without diseases, without wars and rumours of wars, without earthquakes and ecological disasters of one sort or another, without deception and dishonesty, without oppression and class distinctions or racial differences, without strained relationships, without poverty and where there is longevity, and where justice and righteousness prevail and are the foundation stone of the throne of God on earth upon who sits the King of the Jews, as the King of all kings and as the Lord of all lords! (Psalm 89:14) (Revelation 19:16). And so we continue…
(Vs.7-9) “Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.” We know that the day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness and its people with justice and everything that is happening in this world is moving towards that end. When the Messiah’s righteousness and justice rule the earth everything will change and even all of creation will be renewed in the regeneration of all things on earth. As New Covenant believers we live in a fallen and spiritually dark world that is getting darker by the minute and the unsaved of this world are realising that things are deteriorating at every level of society in the political, the business, the domestic and the religious world. Their only hope in this life is the gospel of the kingdom which the Lord Jesus said would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end would come (Matthew 24:14). The earth is racked with wars, famines diseases and mankind is rapidly descending into the whirlpool of destruction and into the abys and it is only the gospel of the kingdom that can give men and women a hope for the future.
As New Covenant believers we are obligated to be involved in the harvest field for the salvation of the souls of men and women ensnared by sin and the devil. Despite all of these calamities we also need to recognise that the Holy Spirit is moving and millions upon millions are coming to saving faith in the Messiah as their Saviour and Lord. Even though there is a gross spiritual darkness the light of the Lord Jesus is resting upon His redeemed people who are actively involved in the spiritual harvest that God is reaping and storing into the barns of His heavenly kingdom and there are still many more to come as the fields are overripe for harvesting (Isaiah 60:1-3).
However, having said this, the time is coming when creation itself will be renewed and we who have followed the Lord Jesus in our glorified immortal and indestructible bodies will be a part of this regeneration of all things on earth, in the heavens and under the sea. Creation itself will rejoice, not having spirits as humans have of course, but having an inherent awareness of the creator of all things from whom radiates life in all of its fullest brilliance and creative regenerating power!
At present we can rejoice and sing and praise God, even though we groan inwardly, being chained to our fallen fleshly natures with all that it produces for us in this life as out physical bodies grow old and are affected by sin, yet desiring to be clothed with our resurrected indestructible eternal bodies free from the very presence of sin. Even now we who have been redeemed by the blood of the Messiah have a new song deep down on the inside of us, that peace of God that transcends all human understanding, that inner serenity and calmness of spirit that is not affected by the changing maelstroms of life, knowing that our hope is not in this world but in the world to come! Indeed as it is written; “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:5).
As the apostle Paul writes; “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
If anyone had problems and afflictions of every kind in this life the apostle Paul had them in abundance, yet he was able to say that they were light and momentarily afflictions when compared to the weight of the eternal glory that was to come. Dear blood-redeemed, blood sanctified, blood washed brothers and sisters in the Messiah, the day will surely come for us and for all of the redeemed saints, the Israel of God, and for Jerusalem and Israel and for the nations of the world, when this prophetic psalm will be a reality in the Messianic Millennial kingdom of the Messiah that is to come! In that day “Joy to the World” will resound around the globe for the Lord will have come and the earth will have received her king!” In that day “all heaven and nature will sing!” In light of this great Psalm concerning the King of all Kings let’s consider once again the lyrics of this greatly loved and favoured Carol…
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing. Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns! Let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy. 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. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love. Selah.