Psalm 66:1-4 – Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." Selah (NIV)
When reading the psalms in the middle of the Bible, have you noticed that the word Selah is positioned in various places? Speculations abound as to what this undefined word means. It mostly populates the Book of Psalms, where this unique word is salted 71 times! In some of the psalms, it appears more than once, while in others, there is neither "hide nor hair" (not a trace) anywhere. Some versions have it three times in Habakkuk 3. In 2 Kings 14:7, Selah is a geographical location.
What this word means presents a quizzical conundrum! In other words, some scholars say that it is a technical term, or a musical term indicating an interlude, or an expression like what the French language means when the word Voilà! is used. It might also mean stop and listen, praise, lift up and pause, or take a moment to savour what you are reading.
If we use the idea of "pause and think of that", it can make a big difference in the way that we read God's Word. For instance, when you read Selah throughout the psalms, what do you do? Do you read it, or skip it? Some versions leave it in (and rightly so). Others, like The Message totally ignore it. (Ah! the challenges of paraphrases.) If you skip it, then you are also losing the opportunity to take a moment and pause to consider what you have just read and how it relates to God and our relationship with Him and our circumstances.
Let us remind ourselves what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about God's Word, our Bible:
Matthew 5:17-18 – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (NKJV)
If His words are true, then we cannot ignore anything said in Scripture, not even Selah.
Do you know why? Well, let me ask you: What is the point, the value of having the Bible? What was God doing when He commissioned its pronouncements and publications? What does God's Word accomplish? The purpose, I would suggest, is to reveal Who God is and what He has done. It is, in a word, revelation.
The revelation of God means that every word is important. Therefore, when we read a psalm that includes the word Selah, let us make a point of taking a moment to pause, to praise, to uplift, and to savour what God is saying to us, for revelation is at hand.
Prayer: Almighty God, may we, like the psalmist, say, "Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11 NKJV) May we agree with Jesus, Your salvific Son, that Your Word is important because it will stand for all time and eternity. We thank You for Your faithfulness. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Sound The Battle Cry" (Lyrics)