The technique I wanted to explore a bit this week has been near and dear to my heart recently. I want to look at it in the context of Psalm 77, one of my all-time favorite parts of the Bible, where the writer is basically just screaming at God. I highly recommend a read through, especially if you’re struggling with something. One of my favorite lines from this Psalm, “I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.”
So in this prayer in Psalm 77, it appears that we can learn that sometimes prayer is talking to God, and sometimes prayer is being too troubled to speak and saying nothing at all.
What’s fascinating about this chapter if you look at Psalm 77 in most Bibles, you’ll see the word Selah in the margin many times. This is characteristic of many of the Psalms. The mysterious word Selah appears in the margin over and over again. Which leads me to my usual questions, what does this word mean, what is it doing there, why is it there, and what can we learn from it?
The term Selah can best be described as a “sacred pause.” It is very musical in nature (later used in reggae music, believe it or not), as many of the Psalms were written as songs to be sung on long journeys. It is used to denote a “sacred pause,” in times of great sorrow and grief; and also to denote a “sacred pause” in times of great joy.
Sometimes in life when you’re just hurting, have gone through a tragedy, or experienced great pain, you simply need a sacred pause, a Selah to take in the moment. Alternatively, if you experience great joy, or something incredibly beautiful, it is appropriate to take a Selah, a sacred pause.
For me, I can remember very vividly losing a close friend, and all I could do was sit in silence. It was time for a Selah, a sacred pause to take in a time of incredible grief. I can also remember great moments of joy, like my younger sister’s wedding, family vacations, or several of my trips to Israel where I just had to stop and enjoy a Selah, a sacred pause.
May you this week, enjoy some beautiful moments of Selah, and also remember that when you’re hurting, sometimes you won’t have words to speak, and all you can do is experience a Selah, a sacred pause of grief.
Below is Psalm 77. Note that the word Selah appears at the end of verse 3, 9, and 15. Verses 3 and 9 mention grief and sorr0w the writer is experiencing, and verse 15 is when he seems to be in awe of the power of God.
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. (Selah)
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? (Selah)”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph (Selah).
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.