Isaac Watts lived in London. Isaac was extremely good-hearted. Oh, how Isaac loved God. Isaac was very gifted artistically. One problem: He didn’t fit into the conventional church world. Making it worse for himself, his thinking and his views just would not stay within the boundaries of normal and accepted doctrine and dogma. In short, Isaac was a bit of an insurgent. If Isaac were around today, he might be a punk-rock or urban rap artist.
One of Isaac’s so-called shortcomings was he insisted upon reading the Old Testament from this side of the cross. Somehow he deeply understood that the Ascendent Christ fulfills the laws, prophets, types and shadows of the Old Testament. Isaac discovered that there is far richer treasure in the Old Testament when viewed properly—through the lens of a resurrected Jesus.
Isaac was an outlier… and an influencer. Spoken words, poems, lyrics and more just came pouring out of him. So would profound literary and scientific works. More than 750 songs, several profound writings and books on logic, children’s literature, and more, survive him. Many are still in use in various ways today. Here’s the thing. Isaac was born in 1674. Yep.
Isaac would occasionally get lost in his pursuit of finding the present-day reality of Jesus—and the now and coming Kingdom of God—in ancient scriptures, particularly the Psalms. One time he got hung up doing this with Psalm 98. Out of that came a song that still today we all know well. It’s a Christmas Carol sung worldwide: Joy To The World! It was published well over 300 years ago!
The original words to Joy To The World are posted below. Take a few minutes to digest them slowly. You will immediately see the joy talked about there is something quite different from happiness. It bears no resemblance to “living my best life” or living “my personal truth”.
Happiness is an outcome. It is a trailing indicator arising from other sources. “Living my best life” or “my personal truth” limits one’s outcomes, experiences and results horribly. Why? One is inescapably limited to the extremely narrow and small kingdom and sandbox of “my… SELF”.
There’s nothing wrong with happiness. After all, God invented it. It’s just that happiness is hooked to situations, circumstances and attitudes. Happiness is a characteristic of personality. Happiness and lack of it arise from one’s personal and family history, his/her physical, mental, emotional, social and financial well-being. As such happiness is highly volatile.
Joy in Christ is hooked to the eternal Kingdom of God and Christ via the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Joy in Christ is existential… a way of being. Joy in the bible is often stated more as the verb, rejoice, rejoicing, etc.. Rejoice is an action word. Joy in Christ is completely unhooked from circumstances, situations and outcomes.
Joy in Christ stems from transferring the kingship of one’s life from her/himself to the one true good King—a King Who has known you since before time. A King Who constantly contends for your highest possible good. A King Who is always sovereign over all and everything, Who is always good, Who always knows the end from the beginning. A King who loves nothing more than to see you flourish in your destiny and purpose, among a tribe and habitat that nurtures that. A King who is knowable, touchable, close, available and powerful beyond words.
May I suggest that this Christmas the greatest gift you could ever give yourself, those you love, those you influence (and those you will) is pledging your allegiance to the One True King and His Ways, Truths and Life. May I urge you to wait expectantly for His ruling presence, to draw near to Him and He to you.
Joy has a name. It is Jesus. You may never know the depths of His riches—how much He loves, cares and wants for you, as His riches are boundless and unfathomable. (Ephesians 3:8) But oh, He so desires you plumb the depths of His love, mercy, grace, truth and transforming power. (Luke 12:32)
Our friend Isaac knew just such a King. And lived just such an existence. Isaac’s joy came from outside the box of self. It came from Another who lived within him. Our friend Isaac repeatedly surrendered to the choice to take Jesus the Christ at His Word. “These things I have spoken to you, that MY joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ~ Jesus (John 15:11, emphasis added).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13) This Christmas season and every day thereafter, may you “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We love you. Yes, you.
Joy To The World, Isaac Watts, 1719 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 world! the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, 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, 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.
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