I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine about preaching. He asked me, “Smith, what is your study routine?” I told him, “First, I read the text at least 6 times before I pick up a pen and paper”. He said, “6 times before you pick up a pen and paper…why?” I said, “Because the first few times, I read it in my normal reading speed and if by the time I reach 4th, 5th, and 6th reading of the text if something doesn’t slow my reading down its probably not a text I should be preaching at the time”. He responded … ”Interesting!”
As I read the book of Psalms there is a word that pops up periodically…SELAH! Every time I see this word it makes me stop, like why is this word here? What does it mean? Why can’t we pronounce it right? Is the word significant? Can we make any sense out of the word?
The word selah is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears approx. 80 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the meaning of selah. Most versions of the Bible do not attempt to translate selah but simply transliterate the word straight from the Hebrew. The Septuagint translated the word as “daplasma” (“a division”). Well-meaning Bible scholars disagree on the definition of selah and on its root word, but since God has ordained that it be included in His Word, we should make an effort to find out, as best we can, the meaning. Proverbs 30: says; “Every word of God is flawless.”
One amazing fact about Selah is the # of times it is used in the Book Psalms. It is used some 80 times in Psalms which is more than the use of “hallelujah” and “Amen”. Makes you go hmmmmm!
One possible Hebrew word related to selah is calah, which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.” Referring to wisdom, Job says, “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold” (Job 28:19). The word translated “valued” in this verse is the Hebrew calah. Here Job is saying that wisdom is beyond comparing against even jewels, and when weighed in the balance against wisdom, the finest jewels cannot equal its value.
Selah is also thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from salah, “to pause.” From salah comes the belief that selah is a musical notation signifying a rest to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the psalms. If this is true, then each time selah appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, perhaps to take a breath or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise the One about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This theory would encompass all these meanings—“praise,” “lift up,” and “pause.” When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how selah could mean “to pause and praise.” Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace, and sufficiency.
The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where selah appears. When we see the word selah in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths.
Clint’s understanding of the Selah based on notes and commentary of study:
Selah can be translated as a form of meditation word. In other words, before moving to the next phrase of your reading, stop and think about what has already been said. Read slow to gain more!
I believe the reason why many people misunderstand the bible is because they read it as if it’s fiction, a novel, science handbook, etc. And if we view the bible in this manner, we miss the true intent of meaning and impact on the lives of those who read it.
I also believe, we read the Word of God way too fast like we’re in a reading competition or something. Slow down! You will be amazed at what you’ve missed because you read too fast.
The best verse I can think of as I write this blog on meditating on the Word is Psalms 1:2
“…2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night..”
The Bible talks about meditating on God’s Word and His laws throughout Scripture. The word meditation means “thoughtful contemplation or reflection for a period of time.” Psalm 1:2 says the man is blessed “whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” The Bible directs us to think scripturally by bringing God’s Word into our everyday thought life. Christian Devotional Meditation (CDM) is an attempt to understand one’s self and focus on God’s presence.
If you can the Word of God and never have a “Make you go hmmmmmm” moment, then maybe and just maybe you’re reading too fast. So, Selah, slow down and think about what you’ve just read.
My name Clint, I love the Word and I approve this message…..