Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Selah: The Pause that Refreshes

If you’ve ever read the psalms, you’ve come across the word Selah. Most likely, you’ve skipped over it without a thought or read the side note which says it’s a musical term of obscure meaning. However, if you dig a little deeper, Selah is not only meaningful, but a fantastic philosophy for life.

Selah is a Hebrew word that occurs 74 times in the Old Testament. The definitions scholars suggest not only apply to musicians from ancient times, but to every God-worshiper.

The first possibility is derived from the word “salal” which means to lift up or increase in volume. Secondly, it might have been an instruction to musicians to pause or take a breath, to accentuate the words so the listener could derive their meaning. The third possibility is that Selah was a word of affirmation, like our modern Amen. All were meant to provide a “total, vibrant worship experience” for both the musicians and the listeners (NIV Archeological Bible).
What would happen if we applied Selah to every facet of life?

Take the words “lift up” for instance. As you rise in the morning, savor a cup of coffee, and read God’s Word – let the music swell. When the sun shines, the mist fingers down the mountains, and I notice flowers in an array of colors and designs, or catch a glimpse of “our” coyote hunting in the field – turn up the volume and praise. When I get a surprise call from a child, parent, friend, or a sweet message from my husband – Selah.

Then there’s the pause for breath. My daughter chose the name Selah Photography for her company based on this definition. It represents her approach to photography as well as the relationship she strives to maintain with God and others.

I’ve been pausing a lot more than I would like to this last month with a combination of allergies, colds, and flu. I would much rather be up and doing, but every time I tried to re-enter the fray, I ended up back on the couch with another box of Kleenex and more liquids.

All this pausing has given me time to meditate on God’s Word, letting it trickle down to the deepest part of my soul. I’ve also read a few excellent books: The Bait of Satan, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Passion and Purity, Unleash the Writer Within, and My Life of Adventure to name a few. I watched Mommy Dearest for the first time, which chilled and challenged me on many levels. I also drug out a box of journals and began reading entries from 1978.

I’ve been taking time out to breathe and think about God’s character and my response to Him; about friendships, parenting, marriage, my calling as a writer. Can I be content to continue in obedience, even when it seems pointless and obscure? My answer is yes.

The third definition for Selah is affirmation. We may not go around shouting Amen whenever we’re blessed, but God certainly gives us plenty of reasons to. Answers to prayer – Selah! Evidence of hard won spiritual growth – Selah! The strength to say no to temptation – Selah!  Baby believers and growing disciples – Selah! The opportunity to speak truth, encouragement, and hope – Selah!

What a great word! We may not know exactly what it means, but that’s part of its charm. I encourage you to stop the next time to see it in your Bible, or in your day, and take a moment to step up the volume, take a breath, and say Amen.


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