You have been saved for a purpose! But how can you know what God is preparing you for; how can you gain any insight regarding what He would have you do as a member of His Body; how can you seek the direction of the Holy Spirit in your life? Selah!
This word has confused Biblical scholars for centuries. You see there is no literal translation known. There are several theories and most of them don’t seem to make much sense. But given the primary use of this word in the Psalms, I think there are three possible translations we should consider: pause, measure, and lift up. The first possible translation for Selah – to pause – is really based upon the fact that the Psalms were originally set to music. So when at key points in the Psalm when the word Selah appears, it is thought to be a sign for the director of music to pause in the performance for a moment of silence. The second possible translation for Selah – to measure – comes from the closest word and possible root for Selah – which means to weigh or measure – and the fact that this word tends to be placed at key points of transition in the Psalm. So at these moments of transition, when the word Selah appears, one is called to carefully consider the preceding words before continuing. The third possible translation of Selah – to lift up – indicates a liturgical use of the Psalm. At the points when the word Selah appears in the Psalm, the congregation is called to lift up their prayer to the Lord. Now we could discuss the merits of each of these possible translations and it might be a fascinating discussion, but for this moment I’d like to ask you to just set that aside and consider all three possible translations together, to pause and measure the Word of the Lord and lift up your prayer to Him. Selah!
Let us hear the Word of the Lord in the Psalm – this prayer – and take a moment to pause and measure what He is saying to us in our Selah.Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
You have been blessed, your transgressions have been forgiven, your sins have been covered through faith in Jesus Christ. So, is your spirit in deceit? Have you remained silent in your transgressions with the heavy hand of the Lord laid upon you, or have you confessed your sins and found His forgiveness; His relief? Have you accepted His loving guidance and instruction or have you resisted Him like a horse or a mule? Do you remain mired in your sorrow or do you rejoice in the steadfast love of the Lord that surrounds you? Selah!
What do you think the Lord is instructing you to do? To come to worship on Sunday morning, sit in your pew, sing the hymns, stay awake through the sermon, and then go about your way as if nothing has happened? No! Though for many who claim the title Christian, this is the entirety of what they understand it to mean, this is not what it means to be a Christian. When you come to worship you have come for Selah, so that you might pause to hear God’s Word spoken to your heart; measure what His Word is calling you to do when you go forth into your life among your neighbors; and lift up your prayer for help and thanksgiving for all He has done and is doing in you. But the Selah ends and the Psalm goes on and so must we. We cannot remain in our Selah.
Martin Luther identified the process of forming the pastor or theologian as a process of Oratio (meaning receiving the Word), Meditatio (meaning to pause, measure, and lift up to the Lord what that Word it working in you), and Tentatio (meaning to struggle with that Word in your life). And just as this is the process for forming a pastor, so it is the same process for all who are instructed, equipped, and prepared to serve our Lord in ministry to our neighbor. Without reading, hearing, and diligently studying God’s Word, you have nothing to pause, measure, and lift up. And unless you get up from your rest, meditation, and worship, to go out and struggle for His name’s sake, your meditations are in vain. Selah!
We are all members of His One Body. We are all called to come together in Selah and then go out together to serve as members of His Body in our community, and study God’s Word so that we might receive His instruction, and then pause again and measure that Word and how our Lord is instructing us through it, lifting up that Word to Him, so that we might go out together again as His Body. Selah is not forever, and Selah is not the purpose for which we have been saved from the power of sin and death. But Selah is God’s blessed gift of rest, renewal, and instruction in His Spirit; so that we might fulfill the purpose He sets before us. Selah! You have been saved for a purpose!