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/Be Thou My Vision/ is a hymn that has gained popularity over the last fifty years—but especially over the last 25 years—along with the growing popularity of all things Irish.
The words and the tune can both be traced back to an event that took place in 5th century Ireland.
The music is an 8th century Irish folk song entitled /Slane/, and refers to /Slane Hill/ were in A.D. 433 Patrick (as in St. Patrick) challenged a pagan king, and some Druid Priests, by lighting a bon fire on the eve of Easter proclaiming the victory of Christianity in Ireland.
It was on that evening, and at that hill that King Loe-gaire of Ta-ra—himself a pagan—traditionally lite a bonfire that initiated a pagan spring festival.
Logaire was so impressed by Patrick’s devotion that, despite his defiance (or perhaps because of it), he let him continue his missionary work in Ireland.
The tune was written to commemorate this event.
The stanzas we sing today are taken from a prayer that is believed to have been written by Patrick himself.
The inspiration for the prayer seems to be taken from Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Composed in Old Irish, the text was translated into English prose in 1905 by Mary Byrne. in 1912 Eleanor Hull used Byrne’s translation to crate a twelve-couplet poem from which the current stanzas were chosen.
Thy hymn in its current form first appeared in The Irish Church Hymnal in 1919.
It was introduced to Southern Baptists in our 1956 hymnal.
As is often the case in our Baptist hymnal one of the original verses is left out.
The omitted stanza reads: /Be Thou my breast-plate, my sword for the fight, Be Thou my Armour, and be Thou my might; Thou my soul’s shelter, and Thou my high tower, Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of Power./
I tell you this because since the original prayer was based on Jeremiah 9:23-24 the hymn is really incomplete without it this verse.
The second, third, and forth verses begin with /“Be Thou my Wisdom,” “Be thou my Breast-plate,”/ and /“Riches I heed not”/ respectively.
Jeremiah reminds us that, Thus says the Lord, /'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth for I delight in these things,'/ declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV).
Here in these verses we see the same order of wisdom, might, and riches laid out as we find in the hymn.
This is not an accident.
The hymnist was communicating the truth in Scripture that our wisdom comes from the Lord, our strength comes from the Lord, and our treasure is the Lord.
Apart from the Lord we are foolish, weak, and poor with nothing in which to boast.
The Apostle Paul alludes to the Jeremiah passage in his first letter to the Church at Corinth.
He writes: /"26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God.
30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”/
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31, NASB95).
#. apart from the Lord, I am self-centered
#. without Him, I am focused only on what brings me pleasure
#. the hymn is primarily a prayer, and petitions God for wisdom, for might, and for Christ to be our treasure
Patrick’s high regard for God is evident in the various titles ascribed to the Lord
He is:
#. our Vision
#. our Lord
#. our Best Thought
#. our Wisdom
#. our Word
#. our Great Father
#. our High King
#. our Inheritance
#. our Treasure
#. our Sun
#. our Ruler
#. our Heart
#. more than any other hymn, these verses describe for me, what I want to be in the Lord
#. the first stanza begins by imploring Be Thou my Vision
#. the sense of the verse is that God and God alone needs to be the center of our focus
#. the Lordship of Christ demands nothing less
O Lord of my heart, Naught be all else to me
In the poem that the hymn is taken from, the first couplet says: Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, None other is aught, but the King of the seven heavens
#. the meaning here is that in respect to everything else Christ alone is King of kings, and Lord of lords—He alone saves and is our Savior
#. if Christ is Savior and Lord, and He is, then he deserves to be my First Love
#. he needs to be my best thought—my primary thought—by day or by night weather I’m waking or sleeping
#. the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus Christ is an intensely personal doctrine and an immensely practical doctrine
#. it’s a doctrine that touches our lives at every point
Christ s lordship will affect the decisions you make
Christ s lordship will motivate the things that you do
Christ s lordship will illuminate the things that you think and the attitudes you hold
#. we cannot be half-way disciples
* /"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it."/
(Matthew 10:37-39, NASB95)
* ILLUS.One of the most influential Christians of the 19th century was William Booth.
You may not recognize his name, but you know the organization he established.
He founded the Salvation Army.
William Booth walked the streets of London, England and saw the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the lonely people of the city.
The people were crammed into crumbling buildings that were full of rats.
They had no jobs.
There was no one to help them.
Worst of all, there was no one to tell them that Jesus cared.
Many of the children had no knowledge of the Gospel—that Jesus died to be their Savior and rose again to be their Lord.
William Booth made it his life’s career to minister among the poor of his city.
Years later when someone asked General Booth the secret of his success, he said, /"God has had all there was of me to have!
From the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ would do for them, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth.
God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life."/
Jesus had become Booth’s Vision, and the Lord of his heart
* /"Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
15This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.
16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
18And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."/
(James 3:13-18, NASB95)
#. apart from the Lord, I am foolish
#. without Him, I know nothing despite the number of degrees I have earned, or the books I have read
#. in the Epistle of James, the apostle refers to two kinds of wisdom
#. there is earthly wisdom
#. there is heavenly wisdom
#. worldly wisdom is defined as man’s use of knowledge to get a desired end through an effective means
God gave us the capacity to think and to know and to reason and therefor to become wise
#. but, like all other attributes of man, our reasoning process has also been affected by sin
#. when a man divorces his thinking from the mind of Christ, his reasoning becomes corrupted
#. worldly wisdom has two chief characteristics
First, it is filled with bitter jealousy
#. James here refers to a spirit of rivalry that refuses to be reconciled
#. this philosophy rules the business and political worlds—and sadly—sometimes it rules the church
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