Selah - Power in the pause
Selah. As a musician, I was told that this word found in the Psalms was a musical term designated by the writer. That was not completely true. In fact, it is not a musical direction but an instruction from the poet dealing with the subject matter of the Psalms and not its musical expression - TRUTH, not tunes.
If you notice, sometimes ‘Selah' occurs at seemingly random places - the beginning, middle and end of a Psalm. What does this mean? The fact of the matter is the word indicates a time of meditation and the writer is telling us, "stop" - issue a space of time, let these thoughts sink into your being and allow God's presence to envelop our will.
That thought puts a whole new spin on how to pray the Psalms and all of scripture.
Some have said that ‘Selah' is to "lift up" and, therefore, it means to sing louder as in a musical crescendo. But it is not for the music to become louder but our hearts are to be lifted up in worship and praise for the truth witnessing to our souls. This is the passion of ‘Selah' as we pray.
So then what is it to experience ‘Selah' and meditate as we pray. To some, meditation is dead air: a waste of time. Dead air is uncomfortable and we live in a fast paced world that demeans times of silence as unproductive. However, our mediation is that time we often steal from our prayer life and it is the very essence of His power. People make the mistake that prayer meditation is an escape from reality but the reality is that prayer positions itself in the heat of the battle rather than retreat. Once we learn this value our prayer life will take on a whole new adventure.
Meditation needs to be bound in scripture but not just reading the Word and gaining insights from that study. Although important, this is simply understanding the text. We have to ask, "What else is in there?" Are we struck by anything and did we experience God in the reading? We can know a passage so well that we can recite its words but it is still lifeless. How does this Word become flesh and incarnational? In our ‘exercise' or pouring over the Word are we open to God to just receive from Him.
This process is likened to sleep, says, Richard Foster in Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. "You can't make yourself sleep, but you can create the conditions that allow sleep to happen." Create the conditions: open your Bible, read it slowly and listen to what it says and reflect on it. You may shout in frustration. You may weep with disappointment. But in those moments it will happen. You will read the words again and suddenly your heart will be pliable and you will be speechless in His presence.
That is Selah.
Many will turn to the familiar passage of Psalm 46 encouraging the reader to "be still." Even as I write that phrase I can hear a carpenter sawing away outside my window. How can I know stillness when my world is endlessly noisy? Knowing full well that our world is tireless with its nagging noise, Paul directs our focus in Romans 12:2, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you ...." (NLT) God does the work - not our analysis, our devises, our programs, our skills but the Omnipotent God who loves us with the greatest intimacy makes Himself known in the silence of Selah.