Issac Watts - “Joy To The World”
Good evening and welcome to our nightly Bible devotional. (Sing Joy To The World).
Here we sit in the middle of May waiting out this government enforced shut-down of our society for the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak with me singing “Joy to the World.” There are many stories and conspiracy theories about persecution of Christians who break the Emergency Order. It sounds like an Orwellian science fiction movie come true. But I’m not going to start bashing the government or spouting conspiracy theories to you. Instead, I want to share a story with you that is stranger than fiction. A story about Joy in singing.
Read Psalm 98.
The story is about “The Father of English Hymnody.” This is the story of the man who wrote many of the beloved hymns we like to sing today: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed, At The Cross, Come We That Love The Lord, We’re Marching To Zion, and some six hundred more. This is the story of a man who was so moved by Psalm 98 that he wrote one of our most beloved Christmas hymns, “Joy to the World.”
The man that I am talking about tonight is Issac Watts who was born in July 17, 1674 to Isaac Watts, Sr. and his wife Sarah. He was born and raised in Southampton, England as was the oldest of nine children. As a child, Issac loved books. He was very smart and even made an acrostic rhyme of his name at age seven which shared his belief in God and the gospel message’s impact on his own life.
The Watt’s family were “Dissenters”. That is to say that they were Christians who didn’t believe in joining the State Church and conforming to government regulations on worship. Instead, Dissenters established their own independent congregations. Dissenters were often persecuted bitterly and imprisoned on trumpt up charges. Issac’s father had even spent time in prison for his beliefs. Often Dissenters were ridiculed and shunned by their families and friends.
Issac grew up to be an upstanding and smart young boy. He learned Latin at four, Greek at nine, French at ten, and Hebrew at thirteen. A doctor noticed Issac’s aptitude and offered him a university education. But Issac turned him down because he was a Dissenter and Dissenters were not allowed to go to State Universities. Issac Watts instead attended the Nonconformist Academy under the care of Thomas Lowe until he was twenty years of age.
Issac had a love for music. But he grew frustrated by the “heartless” singing of repetitious psalms in the church. At this time, the singing of the Psalms of David were the only accepted songs in the churches. It is reported that he was sharing his frustration with his father one day when his father simply said, “Well then, young man, why don’t you give us something to sing better.” And so Issac wrote his first hymn which was skeptically taken to be sung at the Above Bar Church where he and his family were members. The hymn was so well received that they ask him for another one. For two and a half years, Issac continued to write songs for his little congregation to sing. He published his hymnal, “Hymns and Spiritual Songs” in 1707 which included the bulk of the hymns he had written in Southampton.
Watts moved to London where he was ordained in the ministry and preached his first sermon at age 24. He became the senior pastor of Independent Chapel which he remained at until his death in 1749.
Issac Watts changed the way churches sing songs. He wanted to change the way people sang. Most of the Psalms were sung in a grim, ponderous manner while he wanted to bring The New Testament light and life to the hymns. He wanted the folks to sing the good news message of Jesus Christ in joy. For this he has become know as “the Father of English Hymnody”.
Let’s pray together. PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, Thank you for the victory that you have won. You have conquered death and sin for us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Please help us to sing praise to you, O God, even in difficult times. In Jesus name, AMEN!
I hope you will join us tomorrow night at 6pm for our Bible devotional. Good night and God bless you.