May 10, 2020 A+D
Psalm 98, John 16:5-15
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World as a paraphrase and interpretation of Psalm 98. In the first two stanzas he sings of heaven and earth rejoicing together at the coming of King Messiah to save the world. For us his words and the music are forever tied to Christmas, but the words aren’t that seasonally specific. They fit as well in Advent as they do at Christmas, and they are perfectly fitting today or for any time that we receive the Holy Communion.
For in the Holy Communion our risen King, crucified but alive, comes to us. Let the whole earth marvel and rejoice that the King comes to Ft. Wayne today, into this very building, in order to be with us. This is no less of a miracle or surprise, and is no less cosmically significant than His birth in Bethlehem or His riding into Jerusalem or His entry into the Upper Room through locked doors. He didn’t come to those places as a ghost. He came in a Body. So it is that He still comes to us and for the same purpose and in the same Body.
David begins Psalm 98 by saying: O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.
Watts responds: Joy to the World; the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing.
The marvelous thing that God has done is to become a Man. Watts puts it in the present tense. We don’t sing, “The Lord came.” We sing, “The Lord is come.” He didn’t come, hang around for a while, and then depart when He got bored or finished the job. He is here with us according to His promise in His Body. He is come.
He has come to join Himself to our race and our cause. He has taken the mortality of our fallen humanity into Himself. He hid His power in weakness. His arm was made bare on the cross, but was hidden from fools blind with lust and vanity. The stronger Man appeared weak to the strong, and in what seemed to be defeat He won the victory. This is our King. He is come. His throne isn’t a manager: it is a cross and a Paten. Let heaven and nature sing. Death and Satan are undone. Jesus lives. The Lord is come.
The newness of this song isn’t its style or even its message. Rather it sings of the newness of the new creation deliberately in the old ways. It is a Psalm like all the others.
David continues: The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
And Watts responds: Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains. Repeat the sounding joy.
The Lord has revealed His salvation to the heathen. He is the Lord and Savior of Gentiles as well as of the Jews. Gentiles, you and me, are now the sons of Abraham by adoption through water and by the blood of the New Testament. Life is in the Blood.
Jesus Christ is Second Adam, the true Israel. He has wrestled with His Father to win us a blessing and Himself a Kingdom. He gives us His own Name in Baptism circumcising our hearts, defining us, and writing our names next to His in the book of life. He gives us His Blood as a New Testament which cries out not for vengeance but for pardon, which speaks better things than that of bulls and goats, and which shields us from the angel of death. Life is in the Blood. He is known by the heathen, is bestowed upon Gentiles, in and by that Blood which washes us as white as snow.
Our salvation, our place in God’s Kingdom, our citizenship and family is all revealed in the history and literature of Israel. That is our history, our literature. And there God speaks. He promises mercy and truth. In this salvation, the earth itself, in all its parts, animate and inanimate, birds, bugs, dogs, and whales, along with fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains, all things created are being restored, recreated by Christ who died but who lives, and all things created have reason to sing and praise God.
Thus does David carry on: Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Watts sings that praise thus: 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” is a reference to the garden of Eden. There God promised that He would send a Son through Eve whose Heel would be bruised by Satan but, who, in that bruising, would defeat Satan for Eve and reverse the curse that she and Adam had brought crashing down around them and us. This is the marvelous thing that God has done in Christ: He has become a Man to die in fulfillment of His own Law and curse. Thus He undoes death.
Death infected all the cosmos: birds, bugs, dogs, and whales; fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains. Yet now, out of the empty tomb, from the paten and the chalice and the Baptismal font and the sacred page, the blessings of redemption flow as far as the curse is found. No corner is left untouched or forgotten, no tribe or language, no mammal or reptile, no star or planet. The mosquitos and the crocodiles are restored alongside of pharisees, prostitutes, and tax collectors. And Jesus is the King of the Gentiles.
David wraps it up thus: Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
And Watts again responds: He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.
Christ is Our King. He rules us by truth and grace not by power or force. He judges us according to His own mercy and sacrifice. The Law has been satisfied. The accusations answered. We, you and I, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, are the proof of His glorious righteousness and wonders of His love. We are proof of this for He is come to us in His Body with healing and forgiveness. He is for us and with us as one of us, not as a ghost, not as the imaginary personification of an abstract idea or a fantasy. He is for us and with us as one of us in His risen Body and Blood. The Lord is come! Let us receive our King.
Sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.
Joy to the World; the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.