by Sally Contessi
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
It’s declarations of praise like these that I love to read out loud in my room, to tell God of His goodness, and to preach it to my own heart. I find it especially hard to read psalms like these aloud in times of uncertainty and fear – but it always does my heart such good to hear the words, and to remember that as I am singing it out, I am joining the chorus of thousands of angels who stand before the very throne of God and see Him in all His glory.
When I read Psalm 47, as I did in my devotions the other day, I stop at verse 4, because there’s a word there, in the Hebrew, that I have come to love.
The word Selah.
It comes after verse 4 in Psalm 47, “He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom He loved.” This verse is so full of assurance – and in fact, when I’m reading these Psalms, everything else that I read hinges on this verse.
If you research the word, there have been many supposed meanings for what the word means. It appears a lot throughout the book of Psalms, and it’s in the writings of Habukkuk, too. My favourite, and a very popular understanding of the word, is simply to acknowledge we don’t know the intrinsic meaning of the word, because there isn’t one. Selah “seems to have been used to mark a short pause in singing the words of the psalm, so that the singer would be silent, while the instrumental music continued.” Like a ‘rest’ sign on a music staff. I love that.
Because, boy, do I need a rest sign. Selah is a break. A pause. An indication to stop to take a breath, and just be still. A rest to be quiet – silent even- and to listen. And this is why I love that it’s at the end of verse 4. Because our rest, our stillness, our ‘take a breath’ and ‘be quiet’ moment comes from the assurance that “He chose our inheritance.” He. Chose. He did it. We didn’t earn it, or work for it. God chose our inheritance – He chose us, and called us and signed, sealed and delivered our future in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In His death and resurrection. He chose, and He did. I can rest. Selah. It. Is. Finished.
So I’ve been using this word, Selah, as a way to remind myself to take a breath in this season. To stop, pause, breathe and be silent. And remember whose I am. To remember Who holds my hand. To remember it is finished, and I can rest my soul in Him. (Psalm 62:5)
But it’s also the whisper to myself when someone cuts me off on my one daily drive to the store. Selah
It’s in the middle of a meeting, unclenching my fists in release of frustrations. Selah
It’s the moment I can shut the toilet door and take a breath alone for a second. Selah
It’s unfolding over the sink full of dishes for the hundredth time for the day. Selah
It’s the release of anxiety at the end of a day before I drift off to sleep. Selah
It’s the breath I take when I am full of stress and fear of the future. Selah
It can be whenever, and as often as my heart needs a reminder:
Selah – He chose. He is faithful. He has done it, and He will continue to do it in me. 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Sally Contessi is the team leader for QB kids and their families. She is also the kids and family ministry coordinator at Forest Lake Baptist Church and a registered nurse.
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