My first exposure to the word “selah” came from my parallel KJV/Amplified Bible. I remember when I first started reading the amplified translation; this logophile (someone who loves words) was just mesmerized. As an aspiring writer I respect the need for succinct writing but I am equally enamored by the power of words. So discovering this ancient term, selah was wonderful. Selah, saying it sounds sweet coming off the lips. According to the Amplified Bible translation, selah is defined as “pause and calmly think of that”.
Fast- forward a few thousand years and the technological use of forty words or less. Selah is the word I use when I post something that I believe should provoke contemplation and thought. Selah, is pause and think of that before your next post, your next tweet, your next text. Take a moment and contemplate what was just shared. I try not to overuse it, because then, like many other words it loses its significance and power. So selah is a word that I treasure and am thankful to have discovered.
In preparation for this post I decided I wanted to dig a little deeper into selah. I was sure there was more to this ancient term that I knew. Jewish tradition teaches that the Word of God has layers like an onion and there are deep revelations to be discovered by God’s Spirit if it is sought out. Deep calleth unto deep.
Selah is a word that is referenced most in the Psalms by King David. It is usually used directly in correlation with the musical syntax of the Psalm. Psalms were song by the musicians of the temple and were an integral part of worship to God Most High. Interestingly, the only other place beside the Psalms that selah is mentioned is in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet during the time of the Babylonian empire prior to Jerusalem’s destruction. If you have ever read the book of Habakkuk you are familiar with his laments toward God regarding the impending judgment of Israel. He is not a happy camper, I mean prophet.
Chapter three of Habakkuk is where ‘selah’ breaks onto the scene: verses 3, 9, and 13. The first verse of Habakkuk describes this chapter as a prayer according to the Shigionoth. This terminology refers to a musical style that was used by musicians and temple Levites in worship. So the question remains, what would make this prophet who was challenging God’s justice in chapters 1 and 2 end his prophetic book with Shigionoth and Selah? I think the answer is found in chapter 2:1-3.
“I will stand upon my watch and set me upon the tower and watch and see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the LORD answered me, and said, ‘ Write the vision and make it plain upon tables; that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”
Habakkuk was about to get his answer from the LORD and it would SPEAK and it would be a prophetic vision that would cause him to sing prophetically and proclaim selah.
If we take out the chapter and verses of this book we read in chapter 2:20, “But the LORD is in his Holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before him. Next the prophet divinely inspired sings in Hebraic poetic meter the following verses that exalt God. Habakkuk instructs us to ‘selah’ in our lives when it seems that God is not fighting our battles and we are doubtful because of circumstances. Habakkuk recalls the glory of God on Mount Sinai (verse 3); God’s sure Word to the tribes in the wilderness (verse 9) and his promise of salvation (Yeshua) for his people even his anointed Messiah (verse 13). Each time he proclaims, selah. He saw the vision and it did speak. This prophetic word arrested him (verse 16). He spontaneously declared praise to God. We know that this prophetically inspired prayer changed him because of the last three verses of chapter 3. I will let your read them yourself. Then I encourage you to ‘Selah’.
Burdens of prayer can be transformed into prophetic prayer and praise when our vision is redirected to the faithfulness of our God. Grace and peace.