Church Requel
Be Thou My Vision
This weekend we consider our oldest hymn, "Be Thou My Vision." Some say it goes back to the 5th century. We'll learn the miraculous story of how this hymn was written over a 1500 year period of time!
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  • Church Requel
    2 Marion Ave, Mansfield, OH 44903, USA
    Thursday 11:00 AM
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Be Thou My Vision - Hymns 4 Him - Part 5

Today we celebrate the hymn that may be the oldest of all we sing. To understand the history of “Be Thou My Vision” one first has to understand the history of St. Patrick and his stand for Christianity on Slane Hill, Ireland in 433. 433! You all know about St. Patty’s Day on March 17th each year, but what do you know about the Saint Patrick who is behind St. Patty’s Day?

St. Patrick was born and raised an Englishman. When he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish Pirates and forced to sail to the island of Ireland - where he didn’t even know the language. He worked as a servant in Ireland for 5 years until his escape back to England when he was 21 years of age.

Let’s sing the first two verses of “Be Thou My Vision” so we remember the song and can learn what it means to us.

Sing Verse 1 and Verse 2.

How many of you recognize it now? Whenever we talk about vision - there are two ways we can think about it. (1) It can be a thing seen. (2) It can also be the sense or faculty by which a thing is seen. It is a thing we see AND it is the way we see a thing.

When we pray to God that He be our vision, we are asking God to become the One we see so that we might worship. God, be our vision! God, be the One most desired.

But now consider the other way we think about vision - God, become my capacity for sight. God, transform my sight so that my very way of seeing might be transformed. God may I see the way You see. God may I see what You see.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

When we read this verse as well as when we sing this song, we are asking for God to be our vision! God may I see You! May I focus on the Eternal! But also we are asking for God to be the WAY we see everything about us.

This is the primary reason why the first name for Christianity was The WAY, because it was a completely different WAY of seeing everything. In our Hymns 4 Him fashion, TODAY, we will consider 4 ways we ask for God’s vision in our lives.

#1 - God give me Your vision for ___OPPORTUNITY___.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

As we have said many times before this does NOT mean that God causes bad things to happen to us. It does mean that God takes the bad and uses it for His glory and makes something good come out of it. So this first request for vision is that we might be able to see how God can work through the challenges we face in life to make good come out of it.

The hymn we sing today comes from a melody called Shane Hill. What is Shane Hill? To fully understand we have to come back once again to the life of St. Patrick. When he was safely back in England, he studies and became a priest. When he prayed, he asked God how and why God would have allowed him to be kidnapped to Ireland for 5 years. And then he saw the opportunity. He knew the Irish people. He knew their language. And he knew they needed Christ. He saw the opportunity to become a missionary to Ireland. He returned to Ireland where he spent the rest of his life.

Very early in his missionary work he came up against the local Irish king who issued a decree in observation of a pagan Druid festival that prohibited anyone from lighting a flame - even as small as a candle - before the king lit the flame on the high hill to the pagan gods. Patrick defied the king and the Druids by going to Shane Hill, ten miles away, and lighting the enter mountain top on fire with the largest bonfire ever seen! This was Easter morning 433. From that event came the melody we sing this morning!

Everyone else saw the problem of the Druids. Patrick saw the opportunity of Easter. Most people would have focused on the wrong of being kidnapped. Patrick saw the right of learning about Ireland and the Irish language. What challenges do you face today? What opportunities might God try to show you?

Sing Verse 3.

A lot of times we go into conflict thinking that we have to fight the battles we face. The truth is God often will fight our battles for us. We need to be quiet sometimes and just allow Him to be our battle shield, to be our shelter, to be our high tower.

#2 - God give me Your vision for Your ___PROVISION___.

In the case of Patrick, you might think that the king would have hunted him down. But God fought the battle that day. The local king was so impressed with Patrick’s audacity that he permitted Patrick to continue his missionary work. And what a work it was! In his lifetime, Patrick saw more than a thousand churches started and more than 100,000 Irish come to faith in Christ! Wow!

“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17

We often have the wrong idea of fighting the battles God’s sends our way. The most important thing we can do is to pray that God would open our eyes so that we might see how God is fighting for us! God is our provision! God is our defender!

What battles are you facing in your life? I’m not telling you that you don’t have to fight your battles. Sometimes we do. Sometimes God even uses us to fight His battles. However, how many times do we fight our battles needlessly and endlessly, when really what we need to do is to rest in God and allow Him to fight the battle for us? Is God your breastplate? Do you need to raise your eyes Heavenward and allow God to be the power of your power?

Three hundred years later - in the 8th century - another priest, also a poet, took encouragement from the way that Patrick was able to have the vision of God for his life. This priest-poet’s name was Dallån Forgaill. He wrote a Gaelic poem entitled, “Rop tu mo Baile” in honor of St. Patrick. That 8th century poem has since been translated into the English: “Be Thou My Vision!”

Sing Verse 4.

This 8th century poet-priest, Dallan Forgaill, taking a lesson from St. Patrick, being inspired to see with God’s vision … had another reason for writing the lyrics we sing today. He was going blind. He was losing his sight. Some say he was so diligent, that he read so much, that he studied so much, that he ruined his own eyes. But he was not dissuaded from his worship of the Lord. Rather, he saw the treasure to be found in following Jesus!

#3 - God give us Your vision for Your ___TREASURE___.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven… See first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given your as well.” Matthew 6:19a, 20a, 33
Do you see your relationship with Jesus as the greatest treasure in your life? Do you value being God’s son or God’s daughter as your single greatest privilege? We should. No matter what else we own. No matter what adversities we face, we have it made because we are children of the most high God!

God is my inheritance! “Thou and Thou only - first in my heart!” That’s the way it should be. Then nothing or no one can take away the most precious thing we have - our relationship with Jesus.

It’s when we forget that and allow other things or people to creep in ahead of our relationship to God that our minds get tripped up. When we lose sight of the priority of our love relationship with Jesus, we can become anxious and frightened - worried about what the future brings.

On the other hand, when we see God as our treasure, we are also much more likely to have God’s vision for opportunity and provision. We are much more likely to discover new things, even hidden treasures, we could not even have dreamed of before.

And this brings us to 1905, nearly 1500 years after St. Patrick lit a flame on Slane Hill, long after the melody Slane Hill and the poem “Rop Tu Mo Baile” had been forgotten - a 25-year-old university student, Mary Byrne, came across a 14th century copy of “RopTu Mo Baile” and decided to use her new found linguistic skills to translate it into English. These are the words we sing today.

Sing verse 5.

Seven years after Mary Byrne translated St. Dallas’s poem - in 1912 - an Irish woman named Eleanor Hull set the words to music. The melody she used? None other than Slane, the medieval tune written in honor of St. Patrick! When we sing this hymn, we are singing a hymn that is now 110 years old, and took 1500 years to be written! Wow!

#4 - God give us Your vision for Your ___FOREVER___.
For us, the concept of a song taking 1500 years to write is hard to even imagine. We are such short-term creatures. We thing in terms of years and decades. God thinks in terms of Eons! God is a forever God! And He invites us into His forever kingdom. “Forever” is a long time and it never ends! “Forever” changes the way we think about things.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

“You LORD reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.” Lamentations 5:19

I love the words and the lyrics of this song. I love the Irish flavor of the song. I love the history of the song. I love the story behind the song. The story of St. Patrick, of St. Dallan, of Mary Byrne, and of Eleanor Hull. The truth is - I don’t know of another song like it, that spans such a length of time of 1500 years in church history.

The message of having the vision of God is an important one for us to always remember - to see God’s opportunities, God’s provisions, and God’s treasures. But perhaps the true story of this song is that it gives us the barest glimpse into God’s forever - for 1500 years to God is as nothing, the blink of an eye to Him. For us though, muddled down with today’s problems and challenges, being able to catch a glimpse of God’s forever also grants us a glimpse into His opportunities, provisions and treasures. Every time we sing this song, we’ll know this is just a little wink from God about our forever future with Him! Amen!