He Rules the World with Truth and Grace

By Mark D. Roberts

December 28, 2018

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.

Psalm 98:8-9


The fourth and final verse of Isaac Watts’s hymn “Joy to the World” proclaims: “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.”

Hands holding a wrapped present.Like the rest of “Joy to the World,” this stanza is a poetic reformulation of Psalm 98 as understood in light of Jesus Christ. Christian themes and vocabulary are particularly present in the fourth verse. Christ rules the world “with truth and grace,” echoing John 1:14. That verse announces that the Word of God became flesh, the theological core of our Christmas celebration. This Incarnate Word is “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In Psalm 98, the Lord will “judge the world in righteousness.” In Watts’s rendition, Christ “makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and the wonders of His love.” The righteousness and love of God in Christ will be received and celebrated, not just among the Jewish people, but among all nations. This gospel truth is foreshadowed in verse 3 of Psalm 98: “[The LORD] has remember his love and faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” While not abandoning his chosen people, God offers his salvation to all. God’s love cannot be contained in a single nation. Rather, the wonders of his love embrace all nations, all peoples, and even all creation.

When we sing “Joy to the World,” we’re not just celebrating the birth of the one who is Savior and King. Rather, we’re also celebrating the beginning of God’s victory over sin and its consequences. We’re rejoicing because God, through Christ, is making all things new. Thus, we join all the earth in shouting for joy because, indeed, the Lord has come!

Something to Think About:

When have you experienced the wonders of God’s love?

How might you pass along these wonders to others?

Something to Do:

Take some time to reflect on the words and phrases of “Joy to the World.” Which of these resonate with you in a special way? Why?


Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room;
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing.
And heav’n and heav’n 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 the sounding joy.

No more let sin 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. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
People Fall into Sin in Work (Genesis 3:1-24)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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