Selah: Points to Ponder in a Pandemic

Selah. Its a word that shows up 74 times in our Bibles. 71 of those are in the book of Psalms and 3 are found in the book of Habakkuk. The word was most likely a musical term and reveals to us that the psalms were indeed written down for the congregation of Israel to sing the words. Most Christians throughout history have said it refers to a pause in the music. Perhaps a call for silence from those singing. This pause is a call for people to reflect on the words just spoken. Each of our lives in one way or another have been put on pause during this season of the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore I think it would be a good use of our time to pause and reflect on God’s Word. The following are a selected number of phrases from the Psalms followed by the word Selah which contain weighty truths for us to consider in this uncertain season.

1. “Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.” (3:8)

How easily we forget our complete dependence on God. When doctors are looking for a vaccine and businesses are looking to government aide and families are looking to stimulus checks, may God’s people look to Him for their salvation.

2. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah.” (32:7. See also 85:2)

David may have been on the run from murderous king Saul, but he knew he was safe in God. He gives us a glorious picture of God shouting as a warrior who has just conquered his greatest foe. Indeed He has conquered Satan, sin, and death for the believer by means of the cross. Jesus is a true hiding place for us. Corrie Ten Boom knew this. When she could no longer hide from the Nazis, she was hidden in God. May we remember as God’s children that we are, “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). We can be no safer! 

3. “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah.” (39:5. See also 9:16, 20; 89:48)

A handbreadth is the four fingers in your hand minus the thumb. It was one of the smallest units of measurement in Bible times. This pandemic should give us pause to reflect on our own mortality. Sickness and death have this positive effect on prideful humans and may we learn to use our moments for God’s glory. Instead of binging Netflix episodes or wasting time pursuing sinful pleasures, let us remember how frail we are.

4. “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.” (46:7, 11. see also 62:8)

Life in this stay-at-home, self-quarenteening season can stir up loneliness, especially for the single. But here is a glorious promise from our faithful God who calls us “friend” (James 2:23; John 15:14-15). It can be argued that God dwelling with man again is the point of the entire biblical narrative. Let us not forget that our Immanuel has come and now we abide in Him and He in us. He is a fortress for us, protecting us and preserving us.

5. “[He] rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah” (66:7)

Pandemics shouldn’t make believers panic. We must remember when all seems out of control, every tiny droplet of this virus is in God’s sovereign control, being guided according to His predetermined and perfect will for our good and His glory. As R.C. Sproul once said, “there is no such thing as a maverick molecule.” This is not a time for Christians to blush over, but to boast in God’s sovereignty. May we display the humility and submission to an invisible Sovereign even as the “rebellious” exalt themselves.

6. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah” (67:4)

Be glad and sing for joy in a pandemic? Yes. As Paul has said, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Why? Because our God judges and guides the nations with equity. Right now, through this pandemic, God is accomplishing His worldwide purposes and believers from every nation will eternally praise Him for it one day. 

7. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah” (68:19)

May we remember that each day of this pandemic, Christ, “upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). He bears you up each day and is your true source of salvation. 

8. “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah” (75:3)

The earth is tottering from COVID-19. Riots in the streets, businesses crumbling, unemployment rising, economy failing. But in the midst of it all, there is God. He is like Atlas under the world, bearing us up.  If our faith is in Him, we are eternally and gloriously secure.

9. “You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah” (85:2)

Take this time to reflect on the sheer wonder of God forgiving all your sins…and at the cost of His Son’s precious blood! Every one of them. Forgiven. Cast into the bottomless sea (Mic. 7:19). Thrown behind His back (Is. 38:17). Forgotten forever (Is. 43:25). As far as the East from the West (Ps. 103:12). Borne away by our precious Redeemer (1 Pet. 2:24).

10. “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah” (89:48)

This question from the psalmist is rhetorical. The answer is obvious: no one. The wise Solomon has written, “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death” (Ecc. 8:8). Sober way to end, but a good reminder for us all. Since Jesus tasted death for us on the cross, we need not fear the grave (Heb. 2:9, 14). Take precautions and obey the governing authorities, but do not attempt to run from the day appointed for all of us. Embrace that your good and all-wise God knows the end for your earthly life and will sustain you until He calls you to Himself. 

May you spend time to pause and reflect on these and many more of God’s precious promises in His Word. And may the Lord give us all a deeper gratefulness and trust in His good hand of providence in our current season. Selah.