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Selah


Photo Credit: Benjamin Joyce

(By Rachel Joyce)


Selah. (סֶלָה)


This musical term is scattered liberally throughout the Psalms. It calls for a suspension of the music, a pause. I don’t know how you are with pauses, but I struggle with them. I like to live life at full tilt, but God has been teaching me the value of selah.


Suspend the music. Pause.


For many years, it was only the pain and my handicap that would stop me from my busyness. And they did, with appalling persistence.


I’d be preparing a meal and turn to grab a spoon, when searing pain would seize my back. Only with help could I move to my little mat on the floor. Sometimes functioning would return in days. Sometimes weeks.


The slightest movement could trigger another flare-up. And I’d be down again, struggling to take care of my little ones when even the slightest movement brought pain that took my breath away. When you have to pray, “Lord, please let me be able to stand up. Please help me take this next step,” you learn to draw from God’s strength in a new way.


And I did. But each time the pain receded to a manageable level, I would try to make up for the time I had “lost” by working harder and more efficiently. It never felt like enough.


Then, a few years ago, my husband and I went through loss and heartbreak that drove me to practically live in the book of Psalms. Grief sapped me of strength, but through His Word, I received God’s comfort and strength day by day. And I learned about selah.


Found 71 times in the the book of Psalms, selah comes from a root word (סָלָה sâlâh), which means to weigh, value, balance (Strong’s Concordance, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions). When you look at Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, the definition includes the idea of lifting up as something of value or to be thrown away and trodden underfoot.


Selah. Pause so you can sâlâh.


Take time to weigh up and value your life. Rest so you can find balance. What is good and needs to be treasured? What do you need to let go of because it’s not helping you live out the abundant life Jesus died to give you?


Sometimes, as I settle into my chair by the fire for my weekly selah morning, my body tenses and my mind races. Inside, I can feel myself fighting against the stillness. I have editing work to do, writing deadlines to meet, people to call, coordinating to plan, and housework to take care of — always more housework.


But I am learning. I know that stopping, making time to be still, is essential even though it is never easy for me. Stopping takes discipline and conviction. It provides space and quietness for God to speak and me to listen.


Selah. “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).


In the stillness, there’s no distraction from the current problems you are unable to resolve, no numbing of the hurt you’d prefer not to face, no hiding from the fears you’ve been pretending aren’t really there. But along with all of that, He is there with you — holding you, loving you, strengthening you.


And as you rest in His presence, you find your true center. You appreciate His inestimable value as you lift Him high. You feel His healing power deep in your wounded places and you experience His peace. You open your hands and raise them in worship and joy.


“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19).