November 29: Joy to the World – Rejoice! The Lord guarantees His promises

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

November 29

Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 7:10-17

700 years before the birth of Jesus, King Ahaz ruled over the nation of Judah.  This reign was not marked by peace and prosperity, but by difficulty and war.  Judah was being attacked by the armies of Israel (the Kingdom was divided at this time) and Aram.  Ahaz, fearing the stability of the nation and his future legacy, turned to the feared Assyrian army to try to buy some help to fight off Aram and Israel.  For a King who was leading God’s chosen people, Ahaz’s choice of an ally was very peculiar.  God had made promises to protect Judah and provide for her needs, and He had delivered on those promises time and time again in her history.  Ahaz, however, did not trust in the Lord, instead looking to other men to secure the stability He desired.

In Isaiah 7, God speaks to Ahaz and dares him to trust God (not man) for his deliverance.  In 7:9-11, God says to Ahaz, “‘If you (Ahaz) want me (God) to protect you, learn to believe what I say. . . Ask me for a sign Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised.  Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want.’”

I firmly believe that Ahaz thought that this dare from God was a test.  Ahaz did not want to fail the test, so he says back to God in 7:12, “No, I wouldn’t test the Lord like that.”  Ahaz must have puffed out his chest a bit as he said he would never put God to the test.    What Ahaz thought was a pious rejection, however, was actually a good depiction of his spiritual allegiance.  Ahaz would not put the Lord to ANY use in his real life.  He wanted God on his side, but he assumed that in order to maintain the nation’s stability, he would have to impress God with his self-directed wisdom, not a declaration of his utter need for dependence.  Ahaz did not want to show God any weakness, thinking that God wanted him to be strong (or at least have strong friends).

After rejecting God’s call for a sign, Ahaz is confronted by the prophet Isaiah who spoke God’s response in 7:13-16: “Then Isaiah said, ‘Listen well, you royal family of David!  You aren’t satisfied to exhaust my patience.  You exhaust the patience of God as well!  All right then, the Lord Himself will choose the sign.  Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel – God with us!  By the time this child is old enough to eat curds and honey, he will know enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong.  But before he knows right from wrong, the two kings you fear so much – the kings of Israel and Aram – will both be dead.’’”  In this verse, God is telling Ahaz that God will extract Judah from underneath the oppression of the armies of Israel and Aram in a short amount of time.  Indeed, God sets a time sensitive “sign” in place that says when God’s people see a child named Immanuel born to a woman who was still a virgin at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, it will be less than two years until the kings of Aram and Israel will die and their threat to Judah will be subdued.  In this way, Ahaz and Judah were called to renew their trust in God alone to provide deliverance from their enemies.  

This prophecy was given in 735 BC.  Just 3 years after this prophecy was given (in 732 BC), the kings of Israel and Aram were dead and the threat to Judah from these two “enemies” was subdued.  God had made good on His promise.  There most likely was a woman who was not married in 735 BC who married a man and had a child shortly after Isaiah’s prophecy.  (NOTE: This would not have been an immaculate conception.  The “virgin” referred to the fact that the woman was not married yet at the time of Isaiah’s original prophecy.)  Before that child grew to be old enough to eat more than just baby food, Judah’s threats had been eliminated by God Himself.  God had shown Himself worthy to be trusted.

Fast forward 700 years from the events of King Ahaz, and you will find a young virgin woman pregnant with a child named Jesus.  Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Matthew, as he writes his Gospel, is directed to draw a connection between Isaiah 7 and the birth of Jesus.  Matthew 1:21-23 says, “‘She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.’”  Though undoubtedly there was a contemporary application to Isaiah 7 in Ahaz day, ultimately, the words of Isaiah were looking to a day seven centuries away . . . when another baby born, this time by a woman who was still a virgin, would be a sign that an even greater deliverance was forthcoming for God’s people.  Jesus did not just come to rid His people of two pesky foreign kings . . . He came to deliver people from their sins!!

As someone who gets to read both stories from the comfort of the 21st century, I am so glad that Immanuel means more for us than just temporary military conquest.  Ahaz got temporary relief from Aram and Israel 2 years after a child was born.  We get to have permanent relief from the consequences of our sin 2,000 years after Jesus was born.

In our lives, like Ahaz, many times we assume that victory over our chief enemies (sin and its consequences) is found in our own self-righteous behavior.  Real victory, however is not found in ourselves, it is found in a child who was born to a virgin.  Jesus alone can deliver us from our sins.  When it comes to the forgiveness of our sins, God is daring us to trust Him.  He gave us (as Ahaz 2,700 years prior) a sign showing He is able to do marvelous things and is worthy to be trusted.  ”The virgin shall conceive a child” . . . and she did. . . and we can be saved as a result.  Immanuel . . . God with us!  Remember that blessed truth this Christmas season.  Our God delivers on His promises … and that is a true reason for Joy in Jesus!

Suggested Song for today:  O Come, O Come Emmanuel

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

Joy to the World (part 1) Sermon Audio, Video, and Questions

On Sunday, November 28, 2021 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Psalm 98.  This message was part one of the “Joy to the World” series.  Below you will find questions related to the message for group discussion or personal reflection.  Additionally, you will find the sermon audio and video to listen to/watch, download, or share.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Psalm 98
  3. In your opinion, when is it too early to begin to celebrate Christmas?
  4. “Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts and is based on Psalm 98.  This Psalm (and Watts song) reflect on the past, present, and future of God’s people.  Take a moment to list out some of the things people can learn about God regardless of where they live in the world.
  5. Why do you think we are commanded to sing to the Lord concerning His salvation with our voices and with instruments, etc.  In other words, what do these elements ADD to our experience of relating to God?
  6. What are some ways you can “fill your home with the songs of the Lord” this Christmas?
  7. What are some evidences you see in the world today of the “curse” mentioned in Genesis 3 and “Joy to the World’s” third verse?
  8. What are you looking forward to most about the return of Jesus to the earth one day?
  9. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.


To listen offline, click the link to download:

Joy To The World #1 11.28.21


To listen online, use the media player below:


To watch the stream, use YouTube online:


NOTE:  For Christmas 2021, we have an audio playlist prepared for the Christmas season (access it here):

For 2021 we have prepared a Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.


November 28: Joy to the World – The Lord WILL Come!

This devotional is a part of the 2021 Christmas devotional book – “Joy to the World.”  Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.

November 28

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 98

When is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music?  Halloween too early?  How about Thanksgiving?  Black Friday?  December 1?  When is your “starting line” for changing out your playlist?

Whenever your start line, at some point, most will begin listening to Christmas music by the time December rolls around.  However, there is one Christmas Carol that was intended to be sung in July . . . and April . . . and February!  What is that song?  Well it is only the most popular Christmas song in North America – “Joy to the World!”

In 1719, prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote this song, and published it in his book, “The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament.”  Its inclusion in this book lets us know the origins of the song.  Long before Watts arranged it with a Christian perspective, the Psalmist wrote the message in Psalm 98 (way back roughly 3,000 years ago!).  What is interesting about this, is that Psalm 98 is not a Psalm about Jesus’ birth.  It is a song about when the LORD will come “to judge the earth . . . with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (Psalm 98:9).”

The earth celebrates with joy, in Psalm 98 and in Watts’ hymn, when the Messiah comes in righteous judgment upon the earth.  This reference is clearly NOT to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but to Jesus’ return at the end of the world as pictured in Revelation 19:11-21.  The earth rejoices on that day because the sin and sorrow that has grown on the earth and infested the ground will finally and fully be dealt with.  Jesus will rule the world with truth and grace at that time inside His Kingdom, and all will see the “wonders of His love” (see Revelation 20).  After the establishment of this Kingdom, Jesus will also usher in a new heaven and a new earth that will make His blessings flow upon the earth in opposition to the effects of the curse (compare Genesis 3:14-24 with Revelation 21-22.)  

Knowing this background is it bad for us to sing “Joy to the World” at Christmastime?  Absolutely NOT!  This song is great any time of the year, including Christmas.  When we think of Jesus’ birth, we also can sing for joy at His coming, even if the full effects of what this song promises will not be felt upon the earth until He comes again.  The historical reality of His first coming, is a down payment on the reality of His second!  Just as Jesus brought forgiveness for our sins and revelation of who God really is at His first coming, He also will bring judgment and righteousness to the earth at His second coming.

So, join the world in singing JOY this year . . . knowing that God’s redemption is coming.

Suggested Carol for today:  “Joy to the World”

In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day.  All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links:

2021 Christmas Devotional Guide – FREE!!!

Circumstances have a tendency to cause despair.  Illness (physical or mental) can knock us flat.  Financial woes or debt can weigh us down.  Past or present sin or failure can hold us back.  Strained or severed relationships can wipe us out.  There are many circumstances in this world that impact us greatly.

However, these feelings of despair are NOT what we desire.  In no way is that the way we want to live life.  At a deep level, we desire JOY instead.  We want joy’s deep settled happiness and contentment.  

If we were to ask for what we REALLY want for Christmas this year, I would guess that joy would be on all our lists.

So, we should ask the question … is it possible to receive JOY for Christmas this year … no matter what our circumstances are?  And can we KEEP joy throughout the new year, no matter what difficulties may come?

When I look to the pages of the New Testament, I see joy talked about often.  The Greek words translated “rejoice,” “joy,” and “great joy” appear 136 times in our English New Testaments.  The New Testament writers tell us that what we most want for Christmas (joy), is a central theme of the Christian faith.  We come to Jesus, not Santa … to Bethlehem, not the North Pole … for what we most need and desperately want.  Joy is not for sale on Amazon, but it is available to each of us.

But what kind of joy is the New Testament referring to?  Is the New Testament joy driven by circumstances, or something else?  Just a quick summary of the word translated “exceeding joy” (i.e. “joy to the max”) demonstrates a surprising reality.

  • In Matthew 5:11-12, people rejoice with exceeding joy, even when they are experiencing persecution.
  • In Luke 1:47, Mary has exceeding joy, even when her betrothed is considering divorce, and her community misunderstands her situation.
  • In 1 Peter 1:6, people have exceeding joy while going through a variety of difficulties.
  • In 1 Peter 4:13, people experience exceeding joy even while suffering.

So, not only does the Christian faith talk about joy, it talks about an exceeding joy that persists, even in the most dire circumstances!  Well, where does such a joy come from?  Certainly not from this world.  This world delivers us joy-squashing circumstances.  True joy comes from heaven above.  And that joy is delivered to the world when the Lord came.

Jesus’ arrival delivers a circumstance-proof joy because it anchors our settled contentment not on the rough waters of this world or the frailty of our own flesh, but in the glories of heaven, and on the faithfulness of our Omnipotent Savior.  Notice:

  • Matthew 5:11-12 – though persecuted we have joy because of the reward awaiting in heaven.
  • Luke 1:47 – though misunderstood we have joy because the Lord has reached out to us.
  • 1 Peter 1:6 – though experiencing various difficulties, we have joy knowing about the salvation of our souls.
  • 1 Peter 4:13 – though suffering, we have joy because of the glory we will share with Jesus one day

There is a joy that is delivered to us through faith in Christ, when we look to Him and to heaven.    And the blessing of this joy is known to us because the Lord has come.  Over the next month, we will look at the Christmas account in Scripture to find our reasons for joy in Him.  Each day from November 28 to December 25, we will have a daily devotional with Scripture reading and a suggested Christmas carol to help point our hearts to Him and to Heaven this Christmas season (see below for links to download the devotional guide or access the Christmas playlist … or check back on this blog daily beginning November 28 for each days devotional).  Additionally, we will have worship services at Wildwood Community Church through this same era that will focus on these same themes (see the schedule for these services below).  

During Christmas 2021, let us remember the great truth of the classic Isaac Watts song – “Joy to the World, the LORD has come!!!”

2021 Christmas Worship Service Schedule at Wildwood Community Church

  • November 28:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  Sermon on Psalm 98
  • December 5:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  Communion in the service.  Sermon on Luke 1:5-38, 2:36-38.
  • December 12:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  Children singing at the end of the 9:45 and 11:00 in our worship services.  Sermon on Luke 1:39-55.
  • December 19:  Sunday worship at 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 (livestream at 9:45 at this link).  2021 version of our worship team’s “Carol of the Bells” at the conclusion of the services.  Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12, 13:44.
  • December 24:  Christmas Eve worship at 4PM, 5PM, 6PM (livestream at the 5PM service at this link).  Candlelight, carols, Scripture Reading and a message on Luke 2:1-20.
  • December 26:  Sunday worship at 9:45 and 11:00 (No 8:30 service on December 26, and no children’s ministry, student ministry, or adult classes on this day.  All who gather will join us in the worship service on this date.