A few weeks ago we sang one of my favorite hymns; Be Thou My Vision. The most challenging verse for me is also my favorite. It is the third verse:
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.
I’d like to unpack the first two lines of this verse.
Riches I need not
I could take or leave the luxuries of this world. I am not bothered by the lack of them, nor am I satisfied by the possession of them. They are not the source of my joy or my peace.
Nor man’s empty praise
This makes me think of soda. Soda tastes good. It is sweet. It is pleasing. And it is slightly addicting. But there is zero nutritional value. In fact, the calories in soda are more likely to harm your body than they are to nourish it.
Praise from man can be like that. It makes you feel good and confident. It can be slightly addicting leading me to find new ways to seek it. But there is zero spiritual value in it. In fact, it is more likely to harm my walk with God then it is to bring me closer to Him.
Thou mine inheritance now and always
I like to think of this line as starting with the word “instead”. Instead of riches, instead of praise of man, You are my inheritance.
But this is a weird line. God is our inheritance?
20 The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.
Inheritance is wealth or possessions that have been built up over a lifetime. In those days, people worked with their fathers to improve their inheritance; oftentimes sharing in the work of a farm. I’m merely speculating here, but when I think of this in the context of the Old Testament, I would rephrase this to say you are my “livelihood”.
A person’s livelihood can be defined as their means for securing the necessities of life (or so Wikipedia tells me).
I think this is inline with what Numbers 18:20 is telling us. The Lord was speaking to Aaron who was to be the head of the Levites, who were the priests of Israel. He was in the process of dividing up the Promised Land to all of His chosen people. They would work the land to gain their livelihood. But not the priests.
Their livelihood would come from the service of God and indeed from God himself.
So why is this my favorite verse? Why do I find it the most challenging?
This verse is a prayer. It is a goal. It is where I’d like to be: to have a heart that could always say that I don’t rely on wealth. That I don’t live for the praise of man. Instead Lord, I live to serve You; trusting that You will provide for me now and always.