Of all the hymns I've sung in church, "Be Thou My Vision" with its haunting celtic melody touches my heart more than any other song. The words are like a prayer for the heart dedicated to Christ. In fact, the words of this song were taken from an Irish prayer which dated back to the eighth century. History behind so many of the great hymns of the faith always have a story worth repeating.
This story took place around 433 A.D. when St. Patrick came to the Hill of Slane in County Meath. It was the night before Easter and also the start of a Druid festival called Bealtine. The Spring Equinox was also being celebrated. The ruling king at that time was High King Logaire of Tara who ordered that no one light a fire until he lit his to announce the pagan spring festival. However, St. Patrick, in defiance of the King's orders, lit candles on the Hill Tara about ten miles away. Instead of punishing St. Patrick, the king was impressed with his boldness and allowed him to continue his missionary work. As a result of St. Patrick's work, nearly 100,000 people came to Christ, and over 2,000 churches were established.
A poet by the name of Dallan Forgaill was inspired by the events on the Hill of Slane and nearly 100 years after the event, he wrote the original words to "Be Thou My Vision". For many years, it was said as a prayer in a monastic order. In 1905, the poem was translated into English by Mary E. Byrne. The literal prose was then put into verse form and published in 1913 by Eleanor H. Hull. This metrical version of the poem was put in a book of poetry.
Eventually the words of this poem was set to the Irish folk melody entitled "Slane" named after the Hill of Slane. This melody was published in a 1909 collection of old Irish folk music and songs by Patrick W. Joyce. Finally in 1919, Leopold Dix put together the melody with the poem and published it in the Irish Church Hymnal.
What is so interesting in this story is how God wove together all the events through history using one person after another to bring this hymn to His people. We never know how one thing we do out of dedication to Christ can inspire another person to take some positive action. It was St. Patrick's faith that 100 years later inspired a poet to write the words to recite as a prayer. Then, it was not until 1905 that the words were translated.
We so often think that what we attempt in terms of our every day activities does not amount to much. In our own strength, they do not. However, when we dedicate our lives, our actions and efforts to God, He will take our gifts and make them larger than we can ever imagine. Just as Jesus took those two fish and five loaves of bread that the little boy had for his lunch and multiplied them to feed five thousand, so God can take our offerings and multiply them to bless those who have need.
Let me illustrate. I have a dear friend who is very gifted in photography. She has shown me and many others the beauty and intricacy of God's beautiful creation. Her lens captures the color, hue, and shades that testify to an omnipotent Creator who is to be worshipped. She is currently collaborating with a friend who is working on a book. See how God can put things all together?
If God has called us to write, then we should write with our very best effort. If He has called us to sing, then we should lift our voices to His throne! No matter what He has ordained for us to do, if we do it in the name and for the glory of Christ, He will use it to bless others. Micah 6:8 reminds us that this is what the Lord desires: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Sounds simple doesn't it?
God wants a heart devoted to Him and when we hear the words of the hymn "Be Thou My Vision", we should hear it as a prayer remembering the story of how this song was birthed. In God's timetable and through the work of many souls, this hymn came to strengthen and encourage us. Listen to the words and make this your prayer:
"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 my 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 Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all."
Whatever gift God has given to you, pledge it to Him. He will use it and touch lives with it beyond anything you or I could ever imagine. As the hymn tells us, we do not need riches or man's empty praise. Our inheritance, our worth and significance are found in Christ. He will take our offerings and use them to touch other lives. That in itself is reward enough. Selah!
What gifts can you bring to the Lord as an offering? How has He used you to work in someone else's life? I welcome your thoughts and insights as always. This is our place of conversation.