I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause, sitting enthroned as the righteous judge. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished. The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
– Psalms 9:1-12
“I suppose it is not of vast importance that the third stanza is so often omitted in the singing of a hymn, but just for the record let it be said that the worshipers are deprived of the blessing of the hymn by that omission if, as is often true, the hymn develops a great truth in sermonic outline. To omit a stanza is to lose one link in a golden chain and greatly to reduce the value of the whole hymn.
“The significant thing, however, is not what the omission actually does, but what it suggests, viz., a nervous impatience and a desire to get the service over with. We are, for instance, singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” We long to forget the big noisy world and let our hearts go out to reverent worship of that Prince of Glory who died for us, but our sad sweet longing is killed in the bud by the brisk, unemotional voice of the director ordering us to “omit the third verse.” … Since all standard hymns have been edited to delete inferior stanzas and since any stanza of the average hymn can be sung in less than one minute … and since many of our best hymns have already been shortened as much as good taste will allow, we are forced to conclude that the habit of omitting the third stanza reveals religious boredom, pure and simple, and it would do our souls good if we would admit it.”
– Rev. A. W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect
In the Scripture it starts with singing praises and this portion ends with singing praises. It does not give a time limit. By the way, if you eliminate the third verse of Psalm 23, you just got rid of “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Try reading a few of the old favorite Psalms that you have memorized and skipping the third verse. It ranges from sounding silly to not making sense.
I have been in a lot of churches that skipped verses if the preacher went “too long on his sermon.” It was usually the third verse. Once, we were on the radio, and the preacher panicked. He said to sing only the first and last verses of the final hymn, so he could get the prayer in before the radio station cut us off. We were singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Only one line of the first and last verses is different. I wonder if the radio audience heard the laughter from the pews.
No, I grew up in the Presbyterian tradition and the joke was (okay, the truth was) that we never skipped verses. We skipped verses on “We Three Kings”. Ouch, what a long song, but practically nothing else.
I have been wanting to write about this topic for a long time, and I had forgotten where I had read about skipping the third verse. Maybe God was waiting for the right time for me to find this message from Tozer.
He is so right in this quote. We are in a hurry to go home. As a result, we lose out on that special time that we spend with the God of the Universe.
We are so obsessed with the time. I have known church elders to tap their watch to make sure that it was ticking and then hold it to their ear. If the preacher did not notice (or pretended not to notice), they would hold their wrist above their heads and tap their watch so there was no chance that the preacher had not seen them.
Most people forget that the people in the pews are the participants in a worship service. We are telling God that getting to the restaurant one minute before the Methodists down the street is more important than considering the ‘wondrous cross’.
That makes me think, if the crucifixion lasted for more than one hour…
Never mind, it did.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my god;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
– Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Third verse underlined to show what you would miss.
Read the words through a couple of times. Jesus gave His life for us while we were yet sinners. Is one minute that important?
At least the music director didn’t skip the last verse, but were we not ashamed as we sang it?
“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Our all – not just the minute that it takes to sing it.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.