Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Selah

I love when the Bible confuses me. And if the confession sounds rather offbeat, I don’t blame you. I mean who enjoys feeling overcome by imperfection, inadequacy and a finite intellectual capacity? I know, in most cases, I’d rather evade the reminder and recalibrate in the opposite direction. Yet, when I come to terms with my own insufficiencies, I realize a thing or two, such as the liberating intersection between humility and exploration, and how a righteous pursuit of the unknown can overpower intimidation through the conversion of ignorance into knowledge.

Credit this revelation to my latest quiet time, when I considered “selah”, a word I’ve read multiple times but only recently understood. No doubt from Hebrew origin, “selah” is mentioned 71 times in the Psalms, with more denotations than a round-cut diamond from Genesis. Although search engines dub “selah” as an uncertain biblical term, there is still meaningful application to be discovered, regardless of perceived context or translation. From a liturgico-musical standpoint, the sensible definition of selah is fairly fitting to its reflective counterpart. What would musically manifest as an emphatic fermata would equate to a notable pause within prose. A quick glance at Psalm 3:1-4 reveals such an accentuation of passage:

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.” ~ Psalm 3:1-4 (ESV)

But before I dive any deeper…

Selah.

Ahhh…refreshing, isn’t it? How sweet it is for God’s voice* to satisfy in such relaxing resonation? For to “selah” is to anchor attention to powerful veracity and stabilize understanding to a point of sanctified rest. With this in mind, let’s indulge in some transitory irony by pondering on "selah" for a moment. How many expressions feature a foundation rooted in the three primary tenses: past, present and future? Answer: there aren’t many. With "selah", the word’s immediate charge connects at the present, encouraging one to muse both the past and the now in anticipation of what lies ahead. Essentially, to "selah" is to embrace the heart of Philippians 3:13-14 and the final four words of Philippians 4:8:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” ~ Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

The Amplified Bible also supports this notion by translating selah as "pause, and think of that". Other translations highlight the importance of evaluating truth to reality – to dream while holding on to prior providence. Yet, no matter what facet is examined, the bottom line is: “selah” is strategically placed at key points in the Psalms to give the reader the opportunity to meditate on the value and application of God’s word.

So whenever you encounter a “selah” in life, do not hesitate to seek God in holy hiatus. For He longs to refresh the vision He has for you through the point of "selah". So open your heart to wonder, allow your mind to ponder and before the moment ends, apply Habakkuk 2:2-3 and document the moment. By doing this, you'll tap into another dimension on the power of "selah" you never thought imaginable. For we are created to dance with Him in this way.

*Note: Arguably, the most accurate translation/meaning of Selah = "God has spoken".

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