Be Thou My Vision – A Meditation on a Hymn

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.

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Be thou my wisdom, be 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.

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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 heaven-ward, O Power of my power.

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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.

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High King of heaven, when victory is won

may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my heart, whatever befall,

still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

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Be Thou My Vision is an ancient Irish hymn. We don’t know exactly how ancient it is but some sources say that it originated in Ireland in as early as the 6th century, or possibly the 10th century.

But in the early 1900’s this classic Irish hymn was translated into English and has taken its place among the most well-known hymns in the English language.

This is a hymn of reliance upon God. The word’s “Be Thou” make this hymn into a prayer, an expression of desire. We sing this hymn about things that we want to be true about us.

We want God to be our vision, the one in our sight. We want to see him, and only him, as our treasure and our joy. “Naught be all else to me, save that thou art.” Lord, may everything else pale into insignificance in comparison to you.

One of the things that is so beautiful about this hymn is that we are carried through various metaphors.

Verse 3 takes us onto the battlefield. As we fight our way through this life, warring against principalities and powers, against our own flesh and against the world, we cry out to God. “Lord, be the one I look to for protection, be my shield and my shelter and my tower. Lord, fight for me and find victory. Be my sword and raise me heavenward.”

Verse 4 speaks of wealth. We don’t want to find our value and our worth and our security in money or “man’s empty praise”. God is where we will find all our wealth. It’s not just that we will look to him to provide. Instead, God himself is our inheritance and our treasure. If we have him, we have everything.

As you sing this hymn, notice how God-focused it is. Every verse has the word “thou” multiple times. We want God to be our everything. Our “best thought”, our “wisdom”, our “great father”, our “soul’s shelter” and our “vision”.

In the original poem the words “Be Thou” appear more than 14 times. It is when God answers the prayer of this hymn that we will be satisfied. When God himself is our all, when he fills our sight, when he is where we turn for all that we need and all that we could want. Then we will find that God is the “Lord of our heart”.

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