Posted by: rcottrill | June 13, 2019

Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Duke Street, attributed to John Hatton (b. Sept. ___, 1710; d. Dec. ___, 1793)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Watts has made a significant contribution, even to modern hymn books, three centuries after his time. Hymns such as: O God, Our Help in Ages Past; I Sing the Mighty Power of God; Joy to the World; Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed? Join All the Glorious Names; Come, We That Love the Lord; Am I a Soldier of the Cross?, and the superb When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, are his.

The original eight stanzas of the present hymn are not all used today. It’s most common to take the first, and a combination of stanzas two and three, plus Watts’s stanzas four and five. Below they are given as modern editors have printed them.

Songs can become dated, sometime just because things change with the passage of time. Except perhaps in historical enactments or period musicals, not many couples will ride on “a bicycle built for two,” or in “a surrey with the fringe on top,” though there are songs about each.

In a special sense, that can be said of songs in the Bible too–that they’re time related. They have a historical context that needs to be recognized. A case in point. The book of Psalms was the hymn book of ancient Israel. And a number of verses in Psalm 22 are graphically fulfilled with Christ’s death on the cross, a thousand years later. There is certainly value in studying the psalm as it is, in its historical context. But we also need to turn to the New Testament to see how it was fulfilled at Calvary.

But what if a church sang only the Old Testament Psalms. Pastor, theologian, and hymn writer, Isaac Watts grew up in a church that believed only the Psalms should be sung in the services, no newer hymns. But he argued that by so doing they were missing a great deal of New Testament truth. With the church’s permission, he began writing some hymns for the congregation, eventually producing about six hundred of them.

So far, so good. But when a hymn writer takes an Old Testament text and gives it a New Testament meaning, that involves more than merely explaining the initial passage of Scripture and drawing life principles from it. It requires expressing an opinion about how the New Testament relates to the passage. Does it really say what you’re trying to make it say?

Watt’s hymn Jesus Shall Reign is a case in point. He used the latter part of Psalm 72, and turned it into a hymn about Jesus. The psalm is a prayer of David for his son, Solomon, when He ascended to the throne. Watts felt this could also be a picture of the spread of the gospel today. Perhaps it can, in part. (For a wonderful example of this missionary application, see the first Wordwise Hymns link above.)

But it seems better to look beyond both David’s time, and even Watts’s more recent application, and see there a prophetic picture of Christ’s second coming and reign.

“He shall have dominion…to the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72:8) was not literally true of Solomon. Nor was “all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him” (vs. 11). But at a future day when Christ returns He is called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16), and we read, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15). As the prophet Daniel describes it,

“Behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!…To Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14).

Here is Watts’s hymn, picturing the earthly kingdom and reign of Christ.

(Stanza 1) Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom spread from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

(Parts of stanza 2 and 3 combined)
From north to south the princes meet
To pay their homage at His feet;
While western empires own their Lord,
And savage tribes attend His Word.

(Stanza 4) To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And endless praises crown His head;
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

(Stanza 5) People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His name.

Questions:
1) In what sense is the Lord Jesus reigning now?

2) How will His reign be different in the coming kingdom, at His return?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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