Selah. An interesting word, but what the heck does it mean?? Many people who read this blog have probably never even heard the word.
We see the word over 70 times in the Psalms, and 3 times in Habakkuk. Now, I don’t always do really deep theological studies. Mostly I am a talker, a sharer of thoughts. So, let’s just talk about this word. From my research, I conclude that no one is really quite sure what it means. It’s definitely used at a time of pause in the songs of Psalms and Habakkuk. Some say it means to rise and look up. That fits as an instruction to the worshipers singing the song. Some say it means bow down; humble yourself. That also is a fitting meaning at certain spots. Then some say it means pause a minute: a musical interlude, or a pause to reflect, to think about it. Again, a fitting meaning. But what does that have to do with us? Why include a technical instruction to musicians as part of the Scriptures? It must mean something to us, to our lives.
I’ve had lots of things happen this past year in my life to give me pause. At the beginning of last year, I lost my job. I was caught in a net-sweep lay-off in a company that was losing money. This was a first for me; I’ve never lost a job in my life. I felt lost. It was a time to stop and think. What do I do now?
I looked up, and I prayed. In my prayers, I asked God, (very tongue in cheek): “You know what I want, God? I want a part time job with a full time pay check. Do you think you can make that happen for me?” That really was what I prayed. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t just smite me –it’s a good thing He’s patient J But literally, the next day, a head-hunter called me and told me of a need for a Project Manager with my skill-set, but they only wanted someone for between 20 and 24 hours per week. Of course, I went on the interview. The offer made to me the same day was for full-time. I thought about it for a minute, then remembered what I prayed for. I said no. I was only interested in a part-time job. The head hunter went into negotiation. The executive management of this company wanted me. They said ok to the part time, and then said for me to “name my price”. I did, and they accepted. I went to work exactly two weeks after I got laid off from the other company, with a part time job, and a full time income! This caused me to pause again, and bow down in humble adoration of God, who heard my prayer and answered, in spite of me. Selah.
Later in the year, our world was rocked when two close friends suddenly died, days apart. It was unbelievable, really, and no one saw it coming. One was the best man in our wedding. I was the matron of honor in the other’s wedding. Years ago I learned to never ask “why” when death happens, but to just ask “God, what do you want me to learn from that life, and from the experience of this death?”
I was asked to speak at my girlfriend’s funeral. I reflected on her life, amazed at how much we shared in our years of friendship. I was struck at what a good person she was, and how many lives she touched with her kindness. I am better for having known her. As I looked up I thanked God for her, and I was grateful that she was not going to have to live a life in sickness. I was humbled to know that she was actually in the eternal presence of God. I can’t even imagine it. Selah.
I couldn’t find any commentaries where the authors were really certain for the instruction to selah. What does one do to selah? Look up? Bow down? Pause? I think it’s all three, but it’s in the pause that we grow and learn. I think to selah is “to faith”. Yes, it’s the action of faith. Faith is the substance of thing hoped for—it is an action: to wait, believing. Think about pregnancy: When we are pregnant, we wait for birth, as the baby grows. We have faith that the baby will be born in it’s due time, and, as the child grows and is formed in the womb, we mothers get to know her/him. Then this little person is born, and we are awestruck and humbled. To be pregnant pregnancy is to be in a state of selah.
Think of Mary: believing that the child she gave birth to is the promised Redeemer, not knowing every day how that was going to play out–how it was going to end. How could this child, this normal little boy, be the Redeemer? Waiting, praying, believing. Selah.
We are not born to figure it all out. We are born to learn and to grow, to know that God is who He says He is. All of life, every circumstance, every day, is to selah. No matter what the situation, we wait in faith, believing. We are given wisdom and instruction. We do our best as children, siblings, parents, spouses. We do our best at our jobs, we do our best at life. And during that time, we look up, we reflect, and we bow down. It’s not just what we do, it is who we are. Selah.