Selah - a Hebrew word rich with meaning. It carries the idea in the Psalms of being an instruction to pause calmly to think about what has just been said. It is a time to pause and carefully consider the meaning of what has been said, while at the same time lifting up our hearts in praise to God. So, it carries this dual meaning of both taking pause and responding to what we are "mulling over" in our minds, hearts, and spirits. The response of praise is perhaps the easiest. The response of "pausing to consider" is not - for we are not accustomed to "ruminating" over scripture. We read it, probably "lightly" considering what we just read, but not really allowing it to lead us into praise and worship. Since the Book of Psalms was actually much like the "hymn book" out of which the Israelites sang their songs of worship, I wonder if this word "selah" might be a place where the musicians just played on while the worshipers took a moment to consider the words they have just sung? Either way, the idea is that of thinking carefully about, especially in order to make a decision - something we call "contemplation". Therefore, selah was a call to take some action after considering the instruction which was presented.
God is our protection and source of strength. He is always ready to help us in times of trouble. So we are not afraid when the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the sea. We are not afraid when the seas become rough and dark and the mountains tremble. Selah (Psalm 46:1-3 ERV)
Don't lose sight of this idea of "taking action", for it is what is missing in most of our churches today. Hundreds will gather in congregations across the world, hear great teaching, and walk away unaffected by what they have heard. Why? No one really took the moment to "selah"! I like the idea of ruminating over scripture because it means we "chew on it" over and over again until we get everything out of it! When we start to approach our study of the Word of God in this way, we might be less concerned with the "accomplished task" of reading through the Bible in a year and more intent on just "digesting" the tidbits we stop along the way to consider!
With this idea of stopping to consider in order to respond, we want to break apart our verses today:
- God is our protection and source of strength. God - not just any god, but Elohim - the one who has created all things who also governs and controls all things. This name of God refers to the attributes of God which suggest he is the owner (possessor) of all things and the one with the power and authority to do all things with what it is he possesses. We see this term used for God whenever it is referring to the part of his character which "covenants" with his people - for he is both the one who covenants and the one who provides the means by which the covenant may be ratified. This is the plural name of God, what some will think of as signifying the Trinity. At first, the "name" used to describe God may not seem significant, but when we "ruminate" on it a little, we see the one who both creates and owns all things is both the protector of all things and the source of strength for all things. He doesn't just "create" and then leave us to do our own thing - figure out life on our own. He creates us for relationship - to be intimately connected to him as our source of protection and strength - not dependent upon our own self-effort to get us through.
- He is always ready to help us in times of trouble. Elohim is still being spoken of here - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The "triune" God stands "on the ready" to help us. In field and track, one of the "postures" they taught us was to be "on the ready" to leave the starting block, or to take over the carrying of the baton. This signified a sense of alertness and readiness to respond. The idea is of watchfulness and awareness. Our God both watches over us and is continually aware of the happenings in our lives. Nothing escapes his notice, nor his care. Times of trouble are those things which arise and bring a disturbance in our "mental calm" and / or contentment. God is ever-aware of what brings us worry - he stands on the ready to take the load from us, carrying it on our behalf. He stands alert to those things which remove us from a place of balance in our lives - knowing the damage "being out of balance" can cause. The challenge comes in letting him carry the load!
- So...we are not afraid when the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the sea. Most of us don't live on earthquake faults, nor do we see "mountains" crumbling into the sea most days, but this is an apt description for us of what life can "appear" to be like when our peace has been disturbed and our contentment affected deeply. We "feel" like the world is caving in around us and we are going to be "buried alive" by the pressures of these things. Earthquakes don't "just happen" - there has been this "shifting" of something deep within the earth which no longer allows for the "elasticity" of movement to occur unnoticed. The earth is always shifting below the surface, but we seldom notice because there is no "tremor". When the shift occurs long enough and with great enough force, the "tremor" occurs - the "elastic strain" is at its max. Doesn't this describe how pressures mount within us at times? We are going along with the subtle "shifts" here and there, able to move with the shifts which occur until one day when the pressure is just too much and the strain is unbearable. At that point - we give way to the "tremors". When we are faced with the "tremors" of life, he is there - not to just observe them, but to hold us close as we go through them - fearlessly, faithfully, and with tremendous grace.
- We are not afraid when the seas become rough and dark and the mountains tremble. It doesn't say we should not be afraid - it says we are not afraid. Should implies there is a choice - we plan on not being afraid, but maybe we won't act upon those plans. This is not what is presented - we ARE NOT afraid. Period! This is because we consider our source of strength in times of trouble - our source of help. It is not in the best laid plans, but in the closeness of relationship we maintain with the source of all strength and peace!
To this I can only add, "Selah". Just sayin!