For the last five and a half weeks, at random times (seemingly), I have had the tune and few words I know to the old hymn Be Thou My Vision pop into my head. It seemed that perhaps God was trying to tell me something by the frequency of its coming, so I looked up the words. But after reading them (and re-reading them) I think He may be trying to tell me many somethings.
From what I have read, the song is set to an old Irish folk tune entitled Slane – which references the hill on which Patrick lit a fire in 433 to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. He did this in direct disobedience to the Irish High King’s edict that no fires were to be lit until the Druidic celebration of the Spring Equinox had begun. The tune is likely much younger than the story of the Hill of Slane, but the reference to it is appropriate as the lyrics were inspired by the event. They were written by Dallan Forgaill sometime prior to his death in 598 and likely the first few words reference the widely held view that he was blind later in life … Be Thou My Vision.
It is a beautiful song that has endured for centuries simply because the prayer is one that transcends time and circumstance. Whether living in a stone, mud and peat hovel on an Irish hillside in the first millennium or in a glass and steal high-rise in twenty-first century Miami/Tokyo/Paris/Melbourne, the need for God to be present has not diminished or even wavered since the time of Patrick and Dallan.
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my Heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
To see as God sees would be an incredible thing. How much of our current outlook on our position, the people around us and our goals in life would change if we allowed God to be our vision? God being the “Lord of [our hearts]” is a necessary prerequisite to this wonderful new vision – while simultaneously everything else in the world being naught. When God is my all in all, He is indeed my best thought and my best dream – His presence a never-waning, never-failing light amidst the darkness of Satan’s domain.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou with me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Acknowledging God’s wisdom is necessary to see truth. The world makes its case for wisdom; argumentum ad infinitum for lifestyles and decisions which fly 180 degrees from God’s true word. The result is heartache and brokenness. To have our great Father ever with us, to be one with Him, is to be secure in philosophy and in life.
Be Thou my battle shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
The security I mentioned in the last paragraph does not mean that only good will come our way. Sin is still all around us, the power of Satan is prevalent and the consequences – even if we were perfect and blameless – would impact us in this life regardless. But the faith we carry extinguishes these fiery darts (Eph 6:16) and the word of God (His “wisdom”) is our sword. These weapons provide us dignity and delight in the fight against the enemy. He shelters us in the battle; He is a bulwark against the onslaught of our foe. He wins the battle for us through His power in our lives and takes us home when our battle is over.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.
I am always amazed that the solution presented by our culture to every sociological problem always seems to be either money or inclusion. We create programs to help the poor by throwing money at them. We combat bullying by bullying the bullies so as to make the bullied feel better about being bullied by getting in on the bullying. We are continually made to think that success is either measured by our bank accounts or by fawning masses. And while these things will alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty or loneliness, they never touch the deeper needs of intrinsic value and ultimate justice. God is the High King of heaven, the true treasure, and the giver of an inheritance which will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Pet 1:4).
High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
I love how the two final verses depart from the established “Be Thou…” beginning, with the final verse instead ending with that prayer. To live the life outlined in this beautiful hymn ends as it begins: with God our light and our vision, the giver of life, the sustainer of our being … our High King and savior.
This love song and prayer to the God of all comfort and praise (2 Cor 1:3,4) is a source of such strength and direction for me that I had to share it. I pray that God will bless you through it as He has me. May He be your High King and vision too.