Thursday, July 11, 2013

Selah - Pause and Reflect

Today is the fourth day in our 27th week, reading the Bible through in a year together.  Our scriptures today are:  Ecclesiastes 7-9; 2 Timothy 3; Psalm 46.

Today's psalm follows yesterday's discussion of the necessity of silence in our lives.  In Psalm 46, the psalmist declares that even as the storm rages all around, there is a quiet center, a fortress, where refuge can be found.  That fortress is found not behind walls, but behind the shield of God's presence.  When we get quiet, we can know God's peace, even in the center of the storm.  Three times in eleven verses, the psalmist uses the phrase "Selah" which means "pause and reflect."  Some Bible scholars say this is a music notation, and others suggest it is a reminder to reflect on the meaning of the verses.  Either way, Selah reminds us that taking time to pause and reflect helps us to find peace as the storms of life rage around us.  Verses 1-3* say:

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

It seems that when we are in trouble, the first reflex we have is to jump around to try to fix our problems.  When fear overrides our faith, we move into our habitual ways of counter-attack when we are attacked, of reacting to situations rather than thoughtfully responding.  But when we take time to engage in Selah, then we remember that in the center of it all, God is our refuge and strength.  No matter what disasters are going on around us, there is calm in the storm when we pause and reflect, and listen to the Lord.

Verses 4-7 say:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Here, we can understand the "city of God" to be more than just a place called Jerusalem.  Here, the City of God represents the people of God.  Psalm 125:2 gives an analogy between the city and the people, saying, "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore."  The river doesn't make glad a place--the river makes glad a people.  What is the river?  It's the never-ending flow of the Holy Spirit--the river of life that flows from God to us.  It's the salvation we have through Jesus, and the ability He gives us to flow in the perfection of His will.  It's the perfect peace that He gives us when our minds are stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).  This river is available to every believer who will practice Selah, who will pause and reflect on God's presence in the center of the storm.  When a city is besieged, it won't last long unless it has a dependable water source.  Jerusalem was fed by a river that flowed through a hidden tunnel.  When armies came against them, that river made glad the city of God.  In the same way, when the enemy of your soul comes against you, the never-ending flow of God's presence can make you glad.  Even though the nations rage and kingdoms totter, even though it seems like the earth is melting around you, God is your fortress and you will not be moved.

In verses 8-11, we encounter another "Selah."  This time, it's not simply a notation at the end of the verses.  It's a command from the Lord Himself.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

"Be still, and know that I am God."  God tells us to be still.  Practice Selah, and you will know the presence of God.  When desolations come on the earth, remember that God is your refuge and strength.  When you find yourself at a loss for words, it's okay.  Just practice Selah.  Pause.  Reflect.  Let the Word of God speak.

Today, I give you a song by Mercy Me, entitled "Word of God, Speak."  I invite you to get comfortable, sit still, close your eyes, and play the video.  Let the words of the song become your prayer.  Breathe deeply in, and breathe deeply out, as you listen to the song and pray its lyrics to the Father.  Then, as the song concludes, continue to sit still.  Be still, and know the presence of God.  Take a few minutes to listen--and let the Word of God speak to your heart.

*All scriptures are taken from the ESV.

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