Lord be my vision (Be Thou my vision)
2 Samuel 22.22-51; Ephesians 6.1-20
Surprising choice As a teenage fan of the Beatles, Dave Brubeck and Julian Bream, my favourite hymn was number 477, “Be Thou My Vision”. The glorious blend of both the transcendent (exalted) and the immanent (very present) God really touched my heart and refreshed my devotion; all wrapped in a light and moving melody from Ireland’s stock of beautiful songs.
The Story of the song The inspiration for the original poem by Dallan Forgaill, was an incident in 5th Century Ireland. The High King, on the Hill of Slane, had decreed that no fires were to be lit until the Druidic fires that welcomed in the Spring Equinox had been lit. But Patrick went ahead and lit his in celebration of the resurrection of Christ since it was Easter Eve. Rather than executing Patrick, King Leoghaire (Leary) was so impressed with his courage that he allowed him to continue his continue the mission. So in the 6th Century Dallan Forgaill wrote his beautiful poem (Rop tu mo baile), which became devotional inspiration in Irish monasteries for centuries after, ultimately becoming a song translated into English by Mary Byrne and set to the traditional song Blane by Eleanor Hull. This hymn is now found in many different versions around the world, the most recent that we sing being Lord Be My Vision, arranged by Rend Collective Experiment, the worship collective from Belfast.
Something to sing about The wonderful pictures of the Lord in this song are worthy of our reflection so that we’ll never sing it the same again.
Be thou my Vision when you look at the world around you, what do you see? Do you see the glorious work of God in Creation; the wonder of God’s variety in the men, women and children around you; the opportunities to love and serve and grow in Him that life’s circumstances present you with? Or do you see a world of threat, of uncontrollable forces, of frustration and misery, or of opportunities to fill your life with more stuff and power? Is God allowed to be who He is in your life, or does He have to fit your predetermined prejudices and preferences? Note how the first verse ends with a confident belief in the abiding presence of God both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom be the one whose eternal understanding and knowledge (omniscience) guides me and determines my path. Let me be a true child of my heavenly Father, respecting his ways, living out his character in my everyday world; mutually living in and with each other.
Be thou my battleshield As Paul says somewhere else, we struggle not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of evil…so our armour needs to be from God, and in terms of this song, God is our amour; my shield and my sword. It’s not by the virtue of my efforts and insights that I fight for God’s purposes, but under direction and by His strength. In Paul’s scheme, this is the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (the word of God). God is both our means of confrontation and the place of refuge, my strong tower.
Thou mine inheritance all my expectation and hope is drawn from Christ’s death, rising and ultimate triumph. This is like a great treasure, hid away in the very depths of my being where God’s work is initiated.
High King of heaven, after victory won God is celebrated as being with us not just to the end, but well beyond what we too often regard as the end. This is the affirmation that there will come a time of ultimate victory, when God’s light will be all that shines eternally and illuminates our existence (Revelation 21.23). With this glowing promise secure in his heart the poet says let it all come at me, the lover of my soul is still, and will remain forever, my Vision – my driving, internally and externally present source of life, meaning, strength and hope.
If we are to sing this song as though it matters to us, where does it take us? It involves us in trusting God, Father, Son and Spirit, for guidance through life, for strength to live it, for something to hope for. To give our lives courageously to his purposes like it is the only thing that matters, and it is the only thing that matters.