While the Hebrew word is difficult to translate, most believe it is a musical term that means “pause” or “interlude.” I’ve also read that it could be a worship leader’s direction to change the tempo. For instance, to have the instruments and singers s l o w d o w n, or, in some cases, pick up the cadence. If you dig even deeper, you find the word is also understood to encourage reflection. Like the applause sign in a live studio’s taping session, some suppose it signals to the listener “there is something hidden here; do not miss it…listen very carefully…”
Oh, and a really neat tidbit about “selah” is that it is used in thirty-nine of the Psalms, which is, as you well know, equal to the number of books in the Old Testament. And what is the Old Testament? It is the history of the people of Israel that is written down for our benefit and teaching. You’ll find that hidden little gem of a truth in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.
Look it up.
The point I am making is that we have been called to a “selah” life. Sometimes we pause. Sometimes we pick up the pace. At times we rest overnight. At other times, we park at the foot of the mountain for a year or so. We sing (“alamoth” at the beginning of Psalm 46 is thought to indicate a choir solo for all the sopranos), we dance, we bow, we kneel. When our Director tells us, we pack up our tents and get a move on. And when He tells us otherwise, we make camp and get our groove on. There is marching and there is standing still. He speaks and we listen or He is silent and we wait.
Right about now some of you are moving into an “aha!” moment. You’re thinking, This is starting to sound like hearing and following the Voice of God and you would be right. Life is way too harsh and unforgiving to attempt on our own. Three million (or more) people moving as one through the desert can get noisy and distracting, so you can see how weekly sabbaths and daily selahs can turn a march into a journey. Likewise, as you and I journey through life, we must be constantly attuned to those inner prickings and promptings from the Holy Spirit:
“Make camp here for awhile. I have something I want to teach you.”
“There is an enemy afoot. Be on guard.”
“You need to let go of that. It will be a snare. Give it to Me.”
“You need to spend some time today with her. I will give you words that will encourage her.”
“Wake up. There is much to do.”
The “selah” life is the Spirit-led life. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons and daughters of God,” the Apostle Paul says. As we pass through this wilderness on the way to Promise, every step walked in faith is a lyric to the Almighty. Every mile is a stanza of praise. Two or three walking together is a church hymn. Tribes and nations journeying as one is a cantata that the angels want to add to their repertoire. As for me, I cannot wait until the grand finale: the Hallelujah chorus!
7O God, when You went forth before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness, Selah.
8The earth quaked;
The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.