In 1719, a congregational minister named Isaac Watts published a collection of poetic paraphrases of psalms. His poem inspired by psalm 98 has become a popular Christmas carol: “Joy to the World” (Hymns, 201). The message of the poem (and of the psalm) is that the entire world benefits from the light the Savior has brought into the world, and that we can all rejoice.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth,” says the psalm. “Make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise” (Psalm 98:4). Nature can join in the celebration: “Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof;… let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together” (Psalm 98:7), or in the words of the song, “While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy.”
Even non-believers benefit from the Savior’s gospel. “The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen…. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98:2-3).
That last line was echoed by Isaiah as he prophesied of the Second Coming of the Savior. “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations,” he wrote, “and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). The wicked priests of King Noah quoted that passage to Abinadi, asking him to explain it. (See Mosiah 12:24.) After teaching them that Jesus Christ would atone for all of our sins, he declared, “The time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” At that time, Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled. They will “see eye to eye.” They will “break forth into joy” and “sing together.” They will all “see the salvation of our God” (Mosiah 15:28-31).
In light of that glorious message, there is no reason to limit this song to Christmastime. Here is a vibrant arrangement of the hymn by Mack Wilberg, performed by the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, joined by the Gabriel Trumpet Ensemble:
Today, I will remember that the Savior’s atonement and His gospel are universal, that His light blesses everyone, and that one day, we will all see it and will all rejoice together.