Spirit & Truth # 197
By Rev. Greg Smith
Pastor Larry Chell writes:
“In the Philippines I heard a local pastor use the following parable to illustrate Christ's offer of rest (Matt. ll:28) and the response of people who won't trust Him completely: The driver of a carabao wagon was on his way to market when he overtook an old man carrying a heavy load. Taking compassion on him, the driver invited the old man to ride in the wagon. Gratefully the old man accepted. After a few minutes, the driver turned to see how the man was doing. To his surprise, he found him still straining under the heavy weight, for he had not taken the burden off his shoulders.”
This is the way we go to God, accepting His invitation to carry our burdens, while all the way we try to shoulder our own heavy loads. Yet God’s word shows us a better way—the way of rest. Today I want to introduce to you one of the least read words of the Bible. Though it appears in Scripture seventy-one times, most people simply gloss over the word “selah” when the read it in the Psalms. It looks like it belongs in the margin rather than the text of the Bible, yet we need to appreciate its meaning and appropriate it in our lives. “Selah” is a Hebrew word that means “rest.”
Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. That is why we are not afraid even when the earth quakes or the mountains topple into the depths of the sea. Water roars and foams, and mountains shake at the surging waves. Selah.” This short word which seems tacked onto the end reminds us to find rest in the midst of life’s storms. It reminds us to pause and reflect on God’s goodness even when we’re in trouble.
“Selah” is a word used in musical notation. Literally, it’s an instruction to musicians to stop and rest. Have you ever tried to play a song on a musical instrument, while avoiding the rests? It no longer sounds like music, but a raucous cacophony. Our lives are the same way when we don’t take the time to rest, to pause and reflect on God.
A look at this word’s origins shows that it has many meanings. It can mean “to weigh in the balances.” Each of us needs time to weigh life in the balances, to ponder and reflect. “Selah” can also mean, “to lift up,” as in lifting up holy hands to God in worship, or “to praise.” Rabbi Simcha Bart says, “One of the primary commentaries on the translation of words in Prophets and Writings - Metzudot Tzion - says that 'Selah' always means 'forever' (Tehillim 3:3).”[i] When we rest ourselves in God, we need to remember that His promises are forever.
The next time you’re reading the Psalms and you come across the word “Selah,” remember to actually stop and actually do it. Pause. Rest. Place your trust in God who sustains you in the storms of life. Take His yoke upon you, and He will give you rest.
August 20, 2010