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.
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.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the 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.
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 Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
When the Irish poet Dallán Forgaill, as the story goes, sat down to write a few words in praise of God in the 6th Century I wonder if he had in his mind that 1400 years later those words would have been translated, set to music, and sung enthusiastically from churches around the world.
Forgaill’s Rop tú mo baile was translated into English at the turn of the 20th Century and then put to the tune we recognise so well today giving us Be Thou My Vision.
This declarative hymn speaks to so many people because it echoes the prayers from all of our lips. We depend on God. We depend on Him for our salvation, we depend on him for our continued sanctification, we depend on him for saving our friends. We need God.
A question sometimes asked of Christianity is, ‘Is Christianity a crutch?’ I like John Piper’s answer: ‘yes’! (This doesn’t mean we invent God, some kind of psychological delusion). As humans we are in need of saving and as Christians we are in need of assistance!
The character of God in the Old Testament over and over again is shown to be ‘faithful’. God is a God who does not lie, He keeps his promises, and brings things to conclusion. We can bank on God, build on God, and trust in God for the future. We can have faith in God because he is faithful, and what’s more, we are required to have faith in him as the writer of Hebrews says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).”
Heart of my own heart
Throughout the hymn we sing of God as our “best thought”, our “wisdom”, our “father”, our “shield” and “sword”, our “dignity” and “delight” etc. He is to us what we try to be without him. But where our efforts fall short, God delivers.
And then, wrapping it all up, the penultimate line of this grand hymn sets forth the founding requirement needed. Coming at the end of the song but preceding all else we sing of God being the “heart of my own heart”. God is to be central, deepest, firmest, at the foundation of our being. Christ has become our ‘cornerstone’ (Psalm 118) and from there we can build a true and strong life.
The works and teachings of Jesus are wonderful and delightful and when people come close to Him their lives are enriched. But we are called not to merely accessorise our life with kind words and good thoughts but to have our very core transformed. Ezekiel talks of a “new heart” and a “new spirit” that is given to us (Ezekiel 36:26). In this new heart, at the centre, is a heartbeat for God himself. He is the heart of our hearts, and no matter what we encounter in our lives, “whatever befall”, He remains and reigns over all.*
* 🙂 In the spirit of Irish poetry, and all that …