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  • Writer's pictureJosh Hill

October - Be Thou My Vision

This month I'm excited to share some background to a fantastic hymn that has truly stood the test of time. It is one of the most beloved hymns to Christians across the world, but it also is very special to me as it originated from my home country of Ireland. Below are the words. Pray them, not just read them, and they will prove their depth.


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. High King of Heaven, my victory won,

May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Some versions of the hymn include five verses, adding a third verse between the second and third verses I listed. I had not seen the added verse in hymnals I had used before (It might be a recent addition), so I didn't post it, but if you would like to view the lyrics with the additional verse, I recommend this website's version as it seems to be fairly consistent with the text in hymnals I have used before.


About the Author

According to the research I've done, it is generally accepted that the authorship of this beautiful hymn can be attributed to Dallán Forgaill, a 6th-century Irish poet and descendant of the Irish High King Colla Uais. It's hard to know much for sure about him. Some sources say that we don't know anything about him, and others give differing accounts of his life. But it seems to be agreed that he was a man with authority who taught the Word of God until he was tragically put to death at the hands of invading pirates.

The accompanying music is the Irish traditional melody, Slane.



A Few Thoughts...

One thing I want to highlight is that many renderings of the text of the second verse read: "Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise". While I am all for rewriting and revising hymns (while maintaining high quality), I believe this revision is not a positive one. The original text retains a truth that is lacking in the newer text: it is not merely vain praise that is empty, but man's praise itself. Man's praise is shallow; it doesn't last. Men may praise you one day and reject you the next. Instead, the Bible urges us to seek the praise of God who is faithful. And as the apostle Paul concludes, commending the man "whose praise is not of men, but of God", the praise of God is worth so much more than the praise of man. It is lasting, real praise- The praise of the Father upon the child who has made Him his vision.


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