Music that Writes Culture, Part 5

Let me continue to unpack the words of this incredible New Year’s carol.  The second stanza reads:

Joy to the earth, 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

In Watts’ original lyrics, the first line of this stanza reads “Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns.”  Many modern copies of the hymn have simply repeated the benediction of the first stanza, saying “Joy to the world…,” but Watts has changed focus in a comprehensive parallelism from the world to the earth and from “the Lord coming” to “the Savior reigning.”

For Isaac Watts, Jesus is the Savior, our redeemer, the restorer of wholeness and Lord our King, the Sovereign of the universe–of nations and of our lives.  Often, Christians make a distinction between salvation in the vertical realm and lordship in the horizontal realm.  Watts makes no such distinction.  God’s work is comprehensive.  Christ is Savior of both the world and the earth.  He desires redemption not only for humanity, but also for the earth He created.  And He is sovereign over both humanity and nature.

The Great Co-Mission reflects this comprehensive work.  It moves horizontally around the world to encompass both geography (Acts 1:8.) and the very important concept that the gospel is meant to bring redemption to ALL the earth–ALL of creation (Mark 16:15).  And it moves vertically to penetrate culture–to affect all people and all of culture at every level (Matthew 28:18-20).

To miss this concept means to miss the opportunity for us as the church to function in the fullness of God’s commands and longings for our world.

Why did Christ die on the cross?  The Apostle Paul is clear:  “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).  God has a big agenda!  Christ died to reconcile all things to Himself.  Does this include the soul of man?  Yes!  But it is not limited to the soul of man.  Christ died to save all of each human being.  And He died to redeem nature and nations.  This is the comprehensive gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!

-Darrow L. Miller

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Equipping the Church to transform the world
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