It’s a small word with great meaning. Scholars suggest that this poetic term was peppered throughout the Psalms as a reminder to stop, contemplate, ruminate and praise.
Greater than a comma, a colon or a full-stop; Selah is an invitation.
Brian Simmons, author of The Passion Translation, translates the word using the phrase:
“Pause in His presence”.
As I finish the Midday Prayer, I am struck by the fact that the Rhythm of Daily Prayer at Ffald Y Brenin is a series of four intentional ‘Selahs’. These are moments in our day which we set aside to stop and re-connect with our Father.
Reading the text of the Midday Prayer, I notice the obvious process which is involved in the Selah moment.
We begin with the pause itself – we make the decision to slow down, to let go of whatever it is that is driving us and to listen. I live at a fast pace, I always have. Driven by high octane fuel, I am constantly aware of the long list of pressing needs which demand my attention. They howl and scream as I lay them aside. Pausing is not natural and nor is it easy for me – but I know that it is important.
As we pause, we discover His presence. To quote the Daily Prayer, “We pause from our work for this time, aware that God’s presence is here.” As we let go of our urgent things, we find that we are held by Him.
Perhaps one of the greatest and most unfathomable truths in the gospel is that God Most High wants to be with us. The Selah moment reveals that it is not the Father’s distance which separates us from Him, rather it is our distraction. When we stop, let go and become still, we become aware of that which has always been true, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with humanity. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be their God.” (Rev. 21: 3)
His presence is our home, and as any good father would, he fills this home with magnificent gifts.
The first gift which comes to us from His presence is perspective. We find that our troubles, once so large in our vision, shrink and fall to the ground like old helium balloons when we sit with our Father. The forty-sixth Psalm does an exquisite job of displaying the difference that perspective makes. The contrast between the tumultuous, raging oceans and the sparkling river of God could not be more stark.
I find Brian Simmons’ paraphrase of the tenth verse helpful:
“Surrender your anxiety!
Be silent and stop your striving [then] you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations,
And I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.” (Ps. 46: 10) TPT
Trailing close behind the gift of perspective is its twin: the gift of peace. I believe our anxiety is born of the legitimate fear that we are simply too small for this world and too inadequate for its troubles. But when we pause and become aware of Him, we realise that the solution is not to make ourselves larger and stronger, but rather we are delivered by the truth that we are not alone. Yes, we are small, but we are kept! Since we are kept, we can be at peace.
Ordinarily I would say that the two gifts of perspective and peace are sufficient. What more could we ask for than to walk peacefully with our Saviour through the remains of the day?
But the Midday Prayer reminds me that there are two more gifts to come.
The first if power, “Our Good Shepherd… we seek… the presence of Your Spirit to empower us.” Why, of course! This is always a gift of His presence – He empowers us. Scripture records that “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” Luke 4: 14.
Our Selah moments are not meant to waylay or diminish us.
Rather we are called aside to be filled.
And to what end are we filled? Why does He empower us?
My first encounter with the Midday Prayer took me by surprise. My heart was glad for the rest and I expected to be released to complete my ‘to do’ list. Instead, I was served this at midday:
“The Lord said… ask of Me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”
The final gift of His presence is nothing less than possession! As we relinquish our agendas for a moment and draw aside to bask in the presence of our Father, we remember that we are also in the presence of our King. As we rise to leave this place, we do so as Moses did – radiant with heaven’s glory and commissioned by our Father to expand the borders of His realm into the hidden corners of our world.
Photo by Marcus Woodbridge – Unsplash.com