“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

"But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice…let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee" (Ps. 5.11)

     INTRO.: One song that encourages us to be joyful in the Lord is "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (#27 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Henry Jackson VanDyke, who was born at Germantown, PA, on Nov. 10, 1852. After receiving his education at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Berlin, he became a Presbyterian minister and began his work with the United Congregational Church of Newport, RI, in 1879. Then in 1883, he became minister with New York City’s Brick Presbyterian Church. Leaving there in 1899, he was appointed to serve as professor of English literature at Princeton University in New Jersey where he continued 23 years, with an interruption from 1908 to 1909 as American lecturer at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

     Serving other universities as well, VanDyke was a member of the Board of Preachers at Harvard University. This hymn was penned in 1907 while he was a guest speaker at Williams College in Williamstown, MA, among the Berkshire Hills. His aim was to produce suitable words for the tune (Ode to Joy) taken from the final movement of the Ninth Symphony ("Choral") composed in 1824 by Ludwig van Beethovan (1770-1827). This music had already been arranged as a hymn tune in 1864 by an English-born musician who served at Trinity Church in New York City, NY, Edward Hodges (1796-1867). However, the noble melody lacked an adequate text. One morning at the breakfast table, VanDyke handed the manuscript to Mr. Garfield, the Williams college president, saying, "Here is a hymn for you. Your mountains [the Berkshires] were my inspiration. It must be sung to the music of Beethovan’s ‘Hymn to Joy.’"

     The poem was first published in 1911 in VanDyke’s Book of Poems, third edition, where it is dated 1908. Afterwards, VanDyke also served for three years, from 1913 to 1916, as United States Ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg under President Woodrow Wilson, whom VanDyke had known when Wilson was President of Princeton and VanDyke was professor there. During World War I, he served as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Chaplain Corps beginning in 1917. In addition, he published a number of books and chaired the committee which prepared the Book of Common Worship for the Presbyterian Church. Following his retirement as professor in 1923, he spent his remaining years in Princeton, where he died on Apr. 10, 1933.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the tune was found with two other hymns in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the song appeared in the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today, the hymn may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise both edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, and the 2007 Sacred Songs for the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
     This hymn portrays the interplay between God’s created world and our joy.

I. In stanza 1, the God who is manifest outwardly in creation is also the Lord who must be manifest inwardly in human life
"Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!"
 A. As flowers open to the sun above, so our hearts should turn toward the God of heaven and be filled with joy: Isa. 49.13
 B. As the sun melts the gloomy fog, so we can ask God to drive the dark of doubt in our lives away: Mal. 4.2
 C. And as the sun is the bringer of light for life, so God is the Giver of immortal gladness who can fill us with the light of day: Jas. 1.17

II. In stanza 2, we are reminded that God’s physical creation speaks of
His glory and so directs our worship to the Creator Himself
"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,
Chanting bird, and flowing fountain Call us to rejoice in Thee."
 A. Indeed, all of God’s works point us joyfully to praise Him who made them: Ps. 145.10-12
 B. Even the very stars of the heavens declare His glory and show His handiwork: Ps. 19.1-4
 C. And all the fields, forests, vales, mountains, meadows, seas, birds, and fountains in this world remind us that the earth is the Lord’s and call us to rejoice in Him: Ps. 24.1-2

III. In stanza 3, emphasis is now placed on the spiritual blessings that
this same creative God provides for the inner needs of man
"Thou art giving and forgiving, Ever blessing, ever blessed,
Well-spring of the joy of living, Ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, Lift us to the joy divine."
 A. The God who is giving is also forgiving so that we might have the joy of living and happy rest: Ps. 103.8-14
 B. Because He is our Father, He sent Christ to partake of flesh and blood as our Brother and through death bring salvation: Heb. 2.14-18
 C. Our goal should be that this same which God has shown to us, with its accompanying joy, may be ours too: Gal. 4.21-22

IV. In stanza 4, the ultimate effect of our relationship with this God is victory over the ills of life and eternal triumph as we march onward to be with God
"Mortals, join the mighty 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 lead s us sunward In the triumph song of life."
 A. God’s children are invited to join the mighty chorus of joy which began at creation’s dawn: Job 38.4-7
 B. To do this, we must acknowledge the reign of God in love over our lives which in turn binds us to one another as fellow citizens of His kingdom: Lk. 17.20-21
 C. And as we sing together and march according to His directions, we can be victors in the midst of strive: Rom. 8.37-39, 1 Cor. 15.54-57, 1 Jn. 5.4

     CONCL.: VanDyke was a prolific writer and is still noted in the history of American literature as a great author and poet, but he is probably best remembered for this one majestic hymn of joyful praise. The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of genuine joy in the life of each Christian. And with trust and hope in God we can certainly find many good aspects of life which should bring us joy. But we need to remember that every good gift comes from God. Therefore, may we ever express our praise to Him as we sing, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee."


2 thoughts on ““Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

  1. Thank you for this excellent brief history and breakdown of this song! Having the scripture references in there as well is so very helpful.


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