I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah. Psalm 3:4 (NKJV)
Selah and Sojourn. What does it really mean?
Used 71 times in the Psalms and three times in the book of Habakkuk, is this gorgeous, mysterious word:
It’s mysterious because no one – scholars and historians and theologians alike – can really pin down what it means.
The Amplified Bible suggests that this word means to “pause and calmly think about that.”
The Passion Translation suggests that it means to “pause in his presence.”
Some scholars believe it to be a liturgical music rubric where the musicians stop, and the vocalists sing acapella; or the rhythm, melody, and intensity of the music changes.
Others believe it to be a word that underlines the importance and magnitude of what was expressed in the lines above.
Others believe it to be a word that encourages contemplative pause and subsequent praise.
In some instances, the word has been used to mean “forever and always.” A kind of grasping or consideration of eternal mystery.
And then, the word can also be found in Philistine and Sanskrit traditions. Some Scholars believe that David brought the word back with him after sojourning with the Philistines for several years. Here, the word means “solo” or “alone.” Which contributes to both the musical and contemplative interpretations of the word. In Sanskrit, Selah means humble disciple or supplicant who prays to a deity.
I tell you all of this to suggest something about this word. Perhaps its ambiguity is part of its meaning. To pause and contemplate; to be alone with the magnitude of the greatness of the Divine; to simplify and break something down; to wait in the moment; to let your heart and thoughts fly solo apart from the worries and stresses of the day; an encouragement to change the rhythm and melody of the proverbial song your singing or playing; to remember that you’re a forever student and that the Divine is with you always; forever consider the mystery before us, the one that we are tangled up in, the one that is continually being revealed to us through all that life brings.
In the Psalms, “Selah” was written after grand words of praise, violent words of anger, and hopeless words of depression alike.
Selah isn’t just for the good times, but for the entirety of our lives and experiences.
So today, take a few moments and “Selah” in whatever way you need, in whatever way you are being led. And then, continue on.
Selah and sojourn.
Written by Liz Milani
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