Posted by: rcottrill | March 21, 2011

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Words: Henry Jackson van Dyke (b. Nov. 10, 1852; d. Apr. 10, 1933)
Music: From the 9th Symphony, by Ludwig van Beethoven (b. Dec. 16, 1770; d. Mar. 26, 1827)
Adapted by Edward Hodges (b. July 20, 1796; d. Sept. 1, 1867)

Wordwise Hymns (and see Beethoven)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The first stanza, in the original version, personifies the Sun, making it a picture of the Lord. The symbolism is followed through the hymn.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Praising Thee, their Sun above.

The opening words (which also give us the title) suit the theme well. Christian joy is mentioned in each of the four stanzas. There are more solemn hymns of contemplation, appropriate in their place. But this one simply seems to explode with joyful exuberance and praise to God. It is reminiscent of the mood of some of the psalms.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn; should joyfully before the Lord, the King” (Ps. 98:4-6; cf. Ps. 71:22-24; 150:1-6).

The Lord’s people have great cause for rejoicing. He has blessed us in so many ways. Yet it is possible to rejoice, in faith, even when trouble seems to surround us. The prophet Habakkuk is determined to do that. He says,

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls–yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18).

Confidence in the delivering power of God, and in His just resolution of all things, can give us joy in difficult times. We read of the Lord Jesus that He, “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Counting on the Lord to use painful experiences for a good purpose, as the Bible promises He will (Rom. 8:28), can also give joy at such times. “All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You” (Ps. 145:10).

In stanza CH-2, van Dyke describes all nature uniting in praise to God. This is similar to what we have in Psalm 148. The psalmist calls upon sun, moon, and stars, the waters of the earth and the creatures they contain, the fruitful land, and the animals on it, and more, to praise their Creator. It is a poetic device, of course. The praise of all things involves their being and doing what God intended. In that way they testify to the wisdom and power of the One who made them.

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

For the believer, expressions of joyful praise are more reasoned and specific. God is both “giving and forgiving,” and “ever blessing” us (CH-3). God in “love is reigning o’er us,” and we are “victors in the midst of strife” (CH-4). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57). And, “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (II Cor. 2:14).

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.

1) Why are Christians able to find joy in times of suffering?

2) What do you think will be different about our praise of God on earth, and our praise of God in heaven?

Wordwise Hymns (and see Beethoven)
The Cyber Hymnal


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