Proclamations of praise. Testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Invitations to experience Him. You’ll find that and more in Psalm 66, one of my favorites.
Shout with joy to God (v. 1) … Come and see what God has done (v. 5) … Praise our God, O peoples (v. 8) … Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me (v. 16)
But woven in between all those exhortations you’ll find some deep stuff. Enemies, rebelliousness, prison, burdens, fire and water, trouble. Sure, the shouts of victory are because it didn’t overtake them. The Lord was near, but the trouble was close.
You’ll also find a short little italicized word, easily overlooked.
The meaning of the Hebrew word Selah is unknown. The word is mostly found in the psalms. Many interpret it to “stop and meditate” on what you just read. Some see it to mean “pause” or “rest”. Selah is also considered to mean “to praise” or “to lift up”. Since it is found primarily in the Psalms between verses, it’s thought that musicians took a moment to pause. I appreciate each perspective.
After verses of scripture, when Selah appears, I take that as an invitation to pause and consider what was written and to praise God for who He is in the midst of it. At times, in the busyness of this New Yorker, there was great temptation to skip it. I cannot do that now.
In the song of my life, I feel like I’m all of the above. Stopping. Meditating. Pausing. Praising. Lifting up. I find myself in between verses, so to speak. The tempo has changed.
I just recently finished up my time on staff at The Lighthouse Church. I am still so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, first at my birthday party by amazing family and friends, and then on my last Sunday by my church family. They sent me off with love, prayers, and immense encouragement (and this awesome surprise video in the service!)
Later this summer, I’ll begin classes at Dallas Theological Seminary to pursue my Masters in Biblical Counseling. A dream come true on so many levels. However, I’m not there just yet. I’m in between. Not much about the next season is certain except for the faithfulness of God (and the fact that I have a school bill!). And I can’t rush to the next chapter because there’s something here to be learned and experienced.
The verse of this past year was incredibly intense. In fact, quite possibly the most challenging year of my life. So, I am grateful to pause. God, in His goodness and mercy, has set aside this season to be still, to learn, to grow, to heal, and to dream before I enter a brand new season. Full time graduate work in an entirely new city is challenging also, but different. This time of transition allows me to connect with God in a deeper way.
As I pause, I realize it’s about much more than processing the past and preparing for the future. I’m also reminded of the things I was once passionate about but, in the busyness of life, ashamedly they were pushed to the back burner. Writing, reading more, passion for missions and a desire to highlight the heroes of the faith around the globe. Prayers for revival, for Israel. The vision to see people whole in every way.
There is no way I’d grasp the magnitude of all that and hear God’s voice if I was on the run to the next thing. I am grateful that God is bringing me back to Himself. Back to basics. Back to what Who is important. This is a sacred time that cannot be wasted.
Without the Selah, it’s easy to focus on the challenges and lose sight of God’s faithfulness. Without the Selah, we may not see how God kept us or delivered us. We can’t see the forest from the trees. (Or whatever that saying is). Possibly, we chalk up an entire experience to be an attack of the enemy but fail to see that God allowed it all and refined us in the process. Without the Selah, our testimonies may be premature because we miss the fact that Jesus was in the midst of it all with a plan much greater than we could even fathom.
Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our hearts; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:8-12)
Praise God when he brought us into prison?
Yes, because it will lead to salvation.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Let the sound of His praise be heard even though He laid burdens on our backs?
Yes, because you will rest in Jesus and learn from Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-20)
Praise God even though we went through fire and water?
Yes, because God brought you through to the other side unfazed.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Praise God because He brought you into a place of abundance … a place where you know HIM!
YES! YES! YES!
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19)
I want to be able to say, “Come and listen… let me tell you what God has done for me!” I want to give the greatest glory to God. By stopping to listen myself and reflect on what the Lord has done, I will be able to do so. So often we want to fast forward through the drama to the next good thing. Our stillness and meditation on God’s goodness is what makes the next good thing really good.
Whether it’s a season or a moment, God has ordained times of stillness in all our lives. They are sacred. They are rich. They are holy. There is more there than we realize.
Don’t skip the Selah.