When I Survey the Wondrous Cross


I did not go to church this Sunday. I am afraid I have no excuse other than I succumbed to temptation and stayed up to the wee hours watching the Olympics coverage and failed to wake up this morning in time……….and I just feel awful for not having spent the time this morning worshiping God.

I know, unfortunately, for many church-goers, the Sunday service has become a chore…..just something they are expected to do. For me, it is about meeting God and having some precious moments in communion with God. Therefore, it does not bother me what others may think because I was absent from church but I myself regret losing that time of fellowship with God that actually is such a great help and encouragement to me through the rest of the week.

If going to church is a chore for you, then you are missing the point. God intended us to be blessed even when we worship Him. It would be good to take time to rekindle the love for God and to rebuild the relationship with Him through heartfelt personal meditation, prayer and reading of His word. Get the relationship right and meeting God becomes a joy and not a chore.

This morning, after failing to make it to church, I had my own quiet personal devotion and I focussed on this wonderful hymn which I would like to share with you.

It was written by Isaac Watts in 1707 and represented a break from the previous tradition where hymns were based solely on biblical texts. Instead, the verses, although biblically sound in doctrine, began to also reflect the believers’ spiritual response to the truth. It is entitled, “When I survey the wondrous cross”.

I have loved this Hymn since I was a young Christian. In particular, I take note of the contrasting imagery used in the hymn. For example, in the first verse, we are reminded that it was a “wondrous cross” but yet on it, “the Prince of Glory died”.

Other notable contrasts include;

a) “sorrow” and “love” flowed mingled down where Jesus took our sorrows as His own because of His love for us.
b) “thorns” compose so rich a “crown”. The use of the crown of thorns was meant to mock Jesus but through it He defeats death and gains the true crown of glory.
c) “were the whole realm of nature mine” but “still an offering far too small” reminds us that we can never repay Jesus for what He has done for us.

When I think of God and the way of love that He has shown us, I often have the image of a mother crocodile holding her eggs between her teeth to transport them. Her jaws are so powerful that they can crush bones but here she uses it with such tenderness and delicateness. In the same way, the Almighty, Powerful Creator of the Universe deals with us in amazing tenderness and love……..another amazing contrast.

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 e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my love, my life, my all.

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