DiM | “Be Thou My Vision” by Various Artists

Presentation1Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

I have been holding onto this post for a couple of weeks now, so today I thought I’d share it so that I could skip the Top 20 charts for a week.  I’ve always loved this song, and in some ways it reminds of me of the discussion we had some time back regarding Tradition and Modernity. An old hymn doesn’t get an automatic pass as being doctrinally sound, nor is a modern song assumed to be fluff. That being said, stereotypes aren’t nearly as arbitrary as many would like to think. Today’s song is one I first heard back in the 1990s as a bonus track on a Rebecca St. James album. Back then, if you left the CD playing and didn’t notice that the last track was 13 minutes long, you would hear a very nice version of this song sung by Rebecca. I couldn’t find that version quickly so I thought I’d go with some more popular singers. Selah also does a nice version.

Be Thou My Vision

One of my long-time favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision”. I am rarely a fan of King James style English, primarily due to the implied “Godliness” of the language. When false prophets really want to “turn up the juice” in their prophesies, they invariably resort to KJV-speak as if it were God’s primary accent. Music sometimes gets locked into an era because the meter and rhyme of the language of the day simply doesn’t work if song is translated into useful English. This song, however, has been done in both old and modern English quite well. That is especially surprising since it’s original language is Old Irish. The following are two good versions of the song, one traditional and the other more of a modern take. I’m no fan of Relevant magazine, and would no sooner recommend them than People magazine (which isn’t going to happen).

Traditionally Performed by Chelsea Moon

Modern Version Performed by the Rend Collective (at RELEVANT magazine)

Lyrics (via Wikipedia)

English version by Eleanor Hull, 1912
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of Heaven, thou Heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

English Methodist version, 1964
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, and I thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
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 Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Positive Elements

This song is a song of confession and prayer to our Heavenly Father. It is a song sung by Christians. It begins by confirming that the Lord is to be our Vision and the Lord of our heart. We are to see everything through the lens of scripture, that the Word of God is our very vision. This is what we often refer to as having a Christian worldview. The song goes on to declare that all else is nothing to me besides the Lord God. That whether waking or sleeping, day or night, the Lord will be my best thought, my wisdom, and my Light. I know I’m breaking into the next verse a bit, but I’d like to share Psalm 19, a psalm of David, that I think reinforces what is being conveyed here.

Psalm 19 (ESV) | The Law of the Lord Is Perfect
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5     which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

This Psalm declares the wonder of the Law of God, the Scriptures. Let’s skip ahead to what Jesus told His disciples when He promised the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-27 (ESV) | Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The song builds to a reminder that our Hope is in Christ, a Hope of Heaven. Hope is not a “wish” but a knowing (by faith) of what is coming, even though we cannot yet see it. Because Jesus lives, we know we will live with Him in that Great Day.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The song closes with a reminder, that whatever happens, our hope lies in Heaven, not on this earth. Our hope is in Christ, who is at the right hand of the Father, and that no matter what may happen here, we know that Christ reigns as King over all, and He is our vision.

Concerns

The song isn’t quoting scripture directly, and might be explained very differently by someone with errant theology. The song does not preach repentance nor the forgiveness of sin, it’s an affirmation of Christian mindset, aim, and goal. The song itself doesn’t concern me much, but often I hear it played by very “presence” minded bands (like the Rend Collective above) who work it into very mystical sets, so that is a concern.

Conclusion

On its own I think it is a great song of confession of the centrality and sovereignty of God, as well as the promise of His presence in our everyday life. It is open to some abuses by the mystics, but with sound doctrine that can be mitigated. I’d like to reiterate that I do not endorse RELEVANT magazine, and I’m still on the fence about Rend Collective, they seem to live in the mysticism that has permeated evangelical Christianity (like a virus); nevertheless, their version of this song is quite good. I rarely hear a version of this song played on the radio, but when I do, it always brings a smile to my face.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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