BE THOU MY VISION
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.
- Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in the field, which when a man hath found, he hideth it, and for joy thereof departeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant man that seeketh good pearls, Who having found a pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a draw net cast into the sea, that gathereth of all kinds of things. Which, when it is full, men draw to land, and sit and gather the good into vessels, and cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world. The Angels shall go forth, and sever the bad from among the just, And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jesus said unto them, Understand ye all these things? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every Scribe which is taught unto the kingom of heaven, is like unto an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things both new and old. Matthew 13:44–52
- But now in Christ Jesus, ye which once were far off, are made near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, which hath made of both one, and hath broken the step of the partition wall, In abrogating through his flesh the hatred, that is, the Law of commandments which standeth in ordinances, for to make of twain one new man in himself, so making peace, And that might reconcile both unto God in one body by his cross, and slay hatred thereby, And came, and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near. For through him we both have an entrance unto the Father by one Spirit. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners: but citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, In whom all the building coupled together, groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are built together to be the habitation of God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:13–22
- Not as though I had already attained to it, either were already perfect: but I follow, if that I may comprehend that for whose sake also I am comprehended of Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12