Hymn Devotion: Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision is one of the oldest hymns out there. Some say it is the oldest. It was a poem that was put to the melody of a common Irish song. This is by far one of my most favorite hymns. So simple yet powerful. Make sure you meditate on the part I put in bold.
Text—Irish hymn, c. 8th century • Music—Irish Melody
Translated by Mary E. Byrne, 1880–1931
Versified by Eleanor H. Hull, 1860–1935

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
Truly our visionary attitude throughout life is often the difference between success and mediocrity. One is reminded of the classic story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to a primitive island to determine business potential. The first salesman wired back, “Coming home immediately. No one here wears shoes.” The second man responded, “Send a boatload of shoes immediately. The possibilities for selling shoes here are unlimited.”

For the Christian, vision is a true awareness of Christ in all of His fullness and enabling power. This ancient 8th century hymn text from Ireland is still meaningful for us today with its expression of a yearning for the presence and leading of God in our lives. The earnest prayer is enhanced by such quaint but tender phrases as “Lord of my heart,” “Thy presence my light,” “bright heav’n’s Sun,” and “heart of my heart.” The text states that when we allow God to have first place in our lives, He becomes our treasure; we care no more for the pursuit of riches or “man’s empty praise.”
The entire Irish poem was first translated into English in 1905 by Mary Bryne, a research worker and writer for the Board of Intermediate Education in Dublin, Ireland. Several years later Eleanor Hull, a writer of English history and literature, put the prose into verse form and included it in her book of poems, The Poem Book of the Gael. The melody for this hymn is a traditional Irish tune.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart—Nought 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.
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 in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
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.
High King of heaven, my victory won, may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

For Today: Matthew 13:44–52; Ephesians 2:13–22; Philippians 3:12

Ask God to give you a vision of some task that you can do for Him that will require your complete reliance upon His enabling power to accomplish it well. Carry this hymn with you—
Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (90). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.


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