Verse four of “Joy to the World” completes the biblical worldview contained in this Christmas hymn. This last verse is a dynamic testimony to the power of the gospel. The King who was anticipated in the first verse, celebrated for his rule in the second verse, and viewed as the Savior of this sin-cursed world in third, now is proclaimed as the One who will bring a just judgment to this broken world. Are you discouraged by the corruption in the world? You need not despair at the apparent inequities of life! What a wonderful peace flows from the reality that King Jesus rules with truth and grace. The awesome might of God is proclaimed. He will make the nations affirm that his righteousness is glorious beyond description. Here is how Watts puts it:
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love…
Christ’s rule is one of wonder. This magnificent hymn intertwines God’s judgment and his love. Without God’s love there would only be fear of judgment, and without God’s judgment there would be no meaning to his love. Watts’ words show the beauty of Psalm 98. The psalmist proclaims that the reason for joy is that the King, Jesus Christ, will judge the world with righteousness and that each of us will be treated with equity. Here is the end of the Psalm:
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.
It is true that life is hard and can seem horribly unfair. We need only think of the millions of persecuted Christians around the world to affirm this. But our King will judge with equity, righteousness and love. Things will be made right. No one will get away with anything. Payment will be exacted. But for God’s people there will be peace, as the angels sang to the shepherds. The creation longs for the judgment of the King. The peoples of the earth will acknowledge the wonder of this judgment—some through cries of terror and others through cries of joy and gratitude.
So, there it is—a concise, powerful way to understand your world. Christ is the longed-for King. He now rules all things, and that is good. Yes, there is sorrow and sin, but our King conquers the curse as far as it is found. And finally, because of his love for his Father, Christ’s sacrifice means that a righteous judgment results in joy for his people.
When you sing “Joy to the World” the next time, I pray the words of this hymn will bring rich joy to you and your children. Truly, each day is a day to proclaim joy to the world.