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Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

Jesus, Thou Joy of loving hearts,
Thou Fount of life, Thou Light of men,
From the best bliss that earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to Thee again.

Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood;
Thou savest those that on Thee call;
To them that seek Thee Thou art good,
To them that find Thee all in all.

We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

Our restless spirits yearn for Thee,
Wherever our changeful lot is cast;
Glad when Thy gracious smile we see,
Blessed when our faith can hold Thee fast.

O Jesus, ever with us stay,
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed over the world Thy holy light.

Bernard of Clairvaux 12th Century transl. from Latin by Ray Palmer 1858

Joy is not really an emotion it is an aspect of character.  It is not something we simply feel it is something we experience and demonstrate.  Joy is not limited to the happy, light and airy moments of life.  It can be known in the depths of sorrow, grief and suffering.  Joy is particularly seen in the choosing to delight in the minor mercies when things are hard.  Joy is often tangible in the gratitude of those who are forced to live simply because of the geographical, economic and historical circumstances in which they live.  Joy is often lacking in the high expectations of comfortable Christians in consumerist societies.

When you have nothing but have Jesus then you have more than plenty.  When you have plenty and accept Jesus you could expect Him to bring you more things.  When Jesus looked at the rich young ruler He saw a poverty anchored in wealth.  When he spoke to the poor He talked about real treasure which does not perish or fade.

Jesus is the wealth of life: in Him, in knowing Him, there is inexpressible, indescribable and irreducible joy for all eternity.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Eph 1:15-23

On Our Way Rejoicing, as We Homeward Move

On our way rejoicing, as we homeward move,
Hearken to our praises, O Thou God of love!
Is there grief or sadness? Thou our joy shalt be;
Is our sky beclouded? There is light with Thee.

On our way rejoicing, as we homeward move,
Hearken to our praises, O Thou God of love!

If with honest hearted love for God and man,
Day by day Thou find us doing all we can,
Thou who givest the seed time, will give large increase,
Crown the head with blessings, fill the heart with peace.


On our way rejoicing gladly let us go;
Conquered hath our Leader, vanquished is our foe;
Christ without, our safety, Christ within, our joy;
Who, if we be faithful, can our hope destroy?


Unto God the Father joyful songs we sing;
Unto God the Saviour thankful hearts we bring;
Unto God the Spirit bow we and adore;
On our way rejoicing now and evermore.

On our way rejoicing, as we homeward move,
Hearken to our praises, O Thou God of love!

John Samuel Bewley Monsell 1863

Monsell is quickly becoming one of my favourite hymn writers.  I love the tone of this hymn, it reminds me of many homeward journeys and how they make me feel. 

Approaching home, after a few days or a few weeks away, there is a sense of hope and peace and to be in a place of knowing and being known.  Even when family life is fraught there is still a sense of coming home to where we belong.  Of course Monsell is talking of the True Home of the Christian – eternity with God.

The heart of the Christian is set on God, in His Triune beauty, and longs to be with Him: even when choosing wrong we know we are choosing badly and turning from, rather than too, our true Home.

We travel with God toward our Heavenly Home and we travel with His people. There will come a time when that Home will be revealed: the hope of it turns our hearts from the insanity of sin and fortifies us with the resolve and resources to make it all the way!

[Jesus said] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:1-6

The Highest Joy That Can be Known

The highest joy that can be known
To those who heav’nward wend—
It is the Word of Life to own,
And God to have as Friend;
It is the Word of Life to own,
And God to have as Friend.

The Word doth give me wealth untold,
All good it has in store;
My deepest sorrows lose their hold
To joys forevermore;
My deepest sorrows loose their hold
To joys forevermore.

How often when in deep despair
My soul has been restored,
And when the tempter would ensnare
’Twould strength to stand afford;
And when the tempter would ensnare
’Twould strength to stand afford.

It tells me of a love divine,
How Jesus’ blood was shed;
Each day this joyous song is mine
As paths of grace I tread;
Each day this joyous song is mine
As paths of grace I tread.

When stars above shall shine no more
God’s Word is still my light;
When pleasures of this world are o’er,
My joys shall reach their height;
When pleasures of this world are o’er,
My joys shall reach their height

Nils Frykman1886 transl. from Swedish by Signe L. Bennett, 1928

There is a profound simplicity to knowing God in Jesus.  All else is worthless in comparison to Him.  Knowing Him, truly knowing Him, makes everything else that offers satisfaction and joy a blanched and anaemic false-friend.  We find the depths and wealth of joy in knowing Christ in the solid objective reality of His Word: the Word of Life.

Men and women the world over are suffering the harshest penalties that the deepest perversions of the human heart can devise for the sake of having Scripture.  I bear it so lightly – there is no threat to my house and home, my family and friends because we have the Bible.  We love it too little: familiarity really has bred contempt; or at least a careless dispassion.

I must learn to love again so that I would give my life for the Word of Life!

[Jesus said] “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

O What Their Joy and Glory Must Be

O what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessèd ones see;
Crown for the valiant, to weary ones, rest;
God shall be all, and in all ever blessed.

What are the Monarch, His court, and His throne?
What are the peace and the joy that they own?
O that the blessed ones, who in it have share,
All that they feel could as fully declare!

Truly, “Jerusalem” name we that shore,
City of peace that brings joy evermore;
Wish and fulfilment are not severed there,
Nor do things prayed for come short of the prayer.

There, where no troubles distraction can bring,
We the sweet anthems of Zion shall sing;
While for Thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise
Thy blessèd people eternally raise.

There dawns no Sabbath, no Sabbath is o’er,
Those Sabbath keepers have one evermore;
One and unending is that triumph song
Which to the angels and us shall belong.

Now, in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high,
We for that country must yearn and must sigh;
Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land,
Through our long exile on Babylon’s strand.

Low before Him with our praises we fall,
Of Whom, and in Whom, and through Whom are all;
Of Whom, the Father; and in Whom, the Son,
Through Whom, the Spirit, with Them ever One.

Peter Abelard, 12th Century translated from Latin John M. Neale 1854

What do we long for as we think of eternity with God?  Renaissance painting has much to answer for: fat baby cherubim, effete angels in dresses with wings and harps, a dispassionate God and a people without purpose.  Fortunately this is not the Biblical offer, not the Biblical eternity.

Abelard captures much more of the Biblical hope of eternity as he reflects on what it will be like to live there, in the fullness of all God’s promises met in the very reality of the experience of His people.  That is a hope worth anticipating, living for and living toward.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations.  But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

Revelation 21:22-27

All My Heart with Joy is Springing

All my heart with joy is springing,
While in air everywhere
Angel choirs are singing.
Hear them to the shepherds telling:
“Christ is born! On this morn
God with man is dwelling.”

To this lower world descendeth,
From above, He whose love
All our sorrows endeth.
He who breath and being gave us,
Quits the skies, lives and dies
In our flesh to save us.

Christ our Lamb so meek and loving
Dries our tears, calms our fears,
All our sins removing;
Christ our Lamb, who suffers with us;
He can quell death and hell,
And to peace restore us.

Hark, from yon dark manger lowly,
Breezes soft seem to waft
Gentle words and holy:
“Sigh no more, away with sadness
Brethren dear; I am here,
Bringing hope and gladness.”

Come ye now, and kneel before Him;
Mortals all, great and small,
Worship and adore Him:
Love your King, whose love invites you:
Lo, His star from afar
To His dwelling lights you.

Ye, whom galling want oppresses
Here ye find comfort kind,
Balm for your distresses:
Noblest treasures here are given;
Riches true wait for you
Poor of Christ, in Heaven.

Ye who strive with fierce temptation,
Sorrow-stung, conscience-wrung,
Here is consolation:
For the woes which men inherit
Christ can feel, Christ will heal
Every wounded spirit.

Kind Redeemer, knit Thee to us;
Quelling sin, reign within,
With Thy grace renew us:
Make us Thine by true repentance;
Let us hear, free from fear,
Lord, Thy final sentence.

Ours be Thy pure love, O Saviour,
Ours Thy faith, strong in death,
Ours Thy meek behaviour;
Here let us, on Thee depending,
In Thee die, with Thee fly
To the bliss unending.

Paul Gerhardt 1656, transl. from German by Benjamin H. Kennedy 1863

It is somewhat fitting that on the eve of lent we think fresh about Christmas!  The child who was laid into an animal feeding trough was born to be the Son of God nailed to the cross as The Son of Man.  He is our hope – not because of Christmas but because of Easter.  We could have had Christmas and celebrated a Divine visitation but Easter transforms the miracle of incarnation into the the wonder of salvation.

Jesus knows our fleshly life: He took it on, as His own, and paid a penalty which was ours and not His that he might grant to us a gift which we could never have deserved.  In that gift – eternal life – is the very essence and definition of joy.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

With Joy We Meditate the Grace

With joy we meditate the grace
Of our High Priest above;
His heart is made of tenderness,
His bowels melt with love.

Touched with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For He has felt the same.

But spotless, innocent, and pure,
The great Redeemer stood,
While Satan’s fiery darts He bore,
And did resist to blood.

He in the days of feeble flesh
Poured out His cries and tears,
And in His measure feels afresh
What every member bears.

He’ll never quench the smoking flax,
But raise it to a flame;
The bruisèd reed He never breaks,
Nor scorns the meanest name.

Then let our humble faith address
His mercy and His power;
We shall obtain delivering grace
In the distressing hour.

Isaac Watts 1707-1709

If you are a Christian have you ever been so distressed by your sinfulness that you almost despair of God’s mercy and grace?  Ever feel you have been at the extremes of God’s love and on the edge of losing it as a Christian? I have.

In truth I’ve not, at the level of intellectual acknowledgement, doubted grace but I’ve had times where I’ve FEARED that I’ve gone beyond the cross in my sinfulness.  What a fool! What sin there is in that fear! Even then, even at the point of questioning the sufficiency of the incarnate Son of God’s perfect sacrifice in pleasing the Father and granting the fullness of new life by the great power of the Holy Spirit.

However we do, we get there sometimes and what is the remedy for such sin upon sin?  Resolve to live better? Work harder? Love more? Sing louder? Be nicer?

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. NO!

We turn to contemplate grace in all it’s depth – which Watts did 300 years ago and records in this hymn.  Even in the depths of despair over our sin, we can be raised to real joy in the goodness and mercy of God anchored in Christ!

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Heb 10:19-23