Pause and think about it!

Posts tagged ‘selah’


“What does ‘selah’ mean in the Bible?”

The word “selah” is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears 74 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk.

“Selah” is thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; ands_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from salah, “to pause.” From these words comes the belief that “selah” is a musical direction to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the Psalms, which was the hymnbook of the Israelites. If this is true, then each time “selah” appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, either to take a breath, or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise Him about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This would encompass all these meanings—praise, lift up, and pause. When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how “selah” could mean “to pause and praise.” Even though Habakkuk was not written to be sung, Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace and sufficiency.

Perhaps the best way to think of “selah” is a combination of all these meanings. The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where “selah” appears. When we see the word in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” Selah! (Psalm 66:4).

Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions, by Elmer Towns.

My Ebenezers. Selah!

EXACTLY WHAT IS AN “EBENEZER?” Initially, the word appears as the name of a specific place where the Israelites had two battles with the Philistines, in the second of which the ark was captured: Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:1)… The Philistines brought the ark of God from Ebenezer to Ashdod (1 Sam. 5:1).

After the battles, Samuel ascribed meaning to the word based on what had transpired:  Then Samuel took a stone…and called the name of it Ebenezer, stone of help, saying, Heretofore the Lord has helped us (1 Sam. 7:12).  He set up the “stone” as a memorial of the help received in the defeat of the Philistines. 

This passage started the wheels of my mind turning (and I’m sure the same thing happens to you), remembering the many, many times the Lord has intervened in my life and helped me through one battle after another. I was reminded of Malachi 3:16: Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord, and who thought on His name. One translation says, they rehearsed the things the Lord had done for them. When we begin to identify the victories the Lord has given us, two things happen: we get stronger and are more resolved and determined to push through the next conflict; and we are in awe with hearts full of gratitude for how He helped us overcome. There is no need for us to set up tangible monuments, rather we need to apprehend these victories with our minds, capturing them for immediate recall in times of difficulty.

EXACTLY WHAT DOES “SELAH” MEAN? It occurs 71 times in 39 psalms and in Habbakuk 3:3,9,13. The meaning of the word Selah is unknown, and a great many useless opinions have been given about it. For instance, some think it is a musical term meaning “pause” or “repeat.” Others believe it marks a change of meter or the coming in of the accompaniment. Still others think it was supposed to call attention to a peculiarly important thought, or that it designated the end of a prayer. Any of these theories is as good as the others. The Hebrew scholar, W. A. Wright, ends a long list of these opinions by quietly calling it a “hopeless subject.” Whatever its meaning, its intention is clear: selah divides the past thought from the next one. It seems to me this is exactly what an ebenezer does as well. Whenever we pause to reflect on a past victory it brings us to the threshold of a present conflict that is a mere bridge to a future victory. It gives us time to catch our breath, renew our perspective, and affirm our faith in the one True God.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing—through the experience of your faith—that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope (Romans 15:13, TAB).  My ebenezers are columns of “hope” in my life. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov.13:12), but when I have something to inspire hope, I can deal with just about anything that’s thrown in my path. This hope is accompanied by joy and peace: I am not tense or stressed out, because I have the faith to believe that Jesus is my salvation. In fact, His track record in my life is such that hope begets hope; it just keeps multiplying. My hope is not for earthly fulfillment alone—it goes far beyond that to eternal life. As Paul said, To live is Christ; to die is gain (Phil.1:21). The power of the Holy Spirit energizes and directs my life through each and every situation. Between each season there is a Selah –sometimes short, sometimes longer—giving me time to reflect on the Ebenezer that came from the trial or battle.

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 1:6). When others support us through our trials, believe the same truths, and walk according to the Word of the Lord in spite of the difficult circumstances life has imposed on us, it causes our hope to be reinforced and rewarded. We walk through these times with joy in our hearts because of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit who abides there. He keeps reminding us of the words Jesus spoke—words of Life! Again, we are able to identify the Ebenezers and pause for refreshing in the Selah season.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice (leap for joy) with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:7-8). The songwriter understood this unspeakable joy as reflected in the hymn he penned in 1900.


Lyrics and music by B. E. Warren

  1. 1.I have found His grace is all complete,
    He supplieth every need;
    While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
    I am free, yes, free indeed.

    It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
    Full of glory, full of glory;
    It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
    Oh, the half has never yet been told.


    I have found the pleasure I once craved,
    It is joy and peace within;
    What a wondrous blessing I am saved
    From the awful gulf of sin.


    I have found that hope so bright and clear,
    Living in the realm of grace;
    Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
    I can see His smiling face.


    I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
    How its waves of glory roll!
    It is like a great o’er flowing well,
    Springing up within my soul

This joy is best framed with trials for only in the midst of those seemingly endless battles in life does the joy shine most brilliantly. Ah, the contrast is divine! The three Hebrew children understood this “fiery trial”. They were threatened with the fiery furnace and commanded to bow to the earthly king. However, their faith was not in their earthly existence but in the eternal God in whom they believed although they had not seen Him. The threat of fire did not cause them to renounce their faith nor did it scare them into worshipping the king. So it is with us. Our fiery trials generally come in the form of tragedy, persecution or affliction. The joy of knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior far exceeds the physical or emotional pain inflicted by these earthly circumstances. As children of Almighty God, we must keep the proper perspective. Our spirit lives forever; our body does not.

WHAT ARE YOUR EBENEZERS?  What are the moments in your life when you know for a fact that God gave you a victory—brought you through some fiery trials. When compared to someone else’s trials yours may be trivial—but to you they are major! Or perhaps when compared to someone else’s trials yours may be monumental. Study your situation to find the positive things you have learned through it all. There are some to be sure. Look for them! Make them your Ebenezers, then pinpoint the Selah between struggles. God is a very PRESENT help in time of trouble. Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to, but by God’s grace, we cling to Him and He helps. Rehearse the good times. His grace WILL be sufficient to get you through EVERY situation.


(c) C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol.16. No.11. November 2001.

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