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In Hebrew scripture, there is a word that is used in the Psalms indicating a departure from the poetic form of the preceding words, “Selah.” It is a word that is often overlooked when reading the scripture lesson in worship, or when reading in one’s private devotion. There are many different thoughts about the word’s meaning. Some have suggested it is a pause, used as a direction to the musicians. Others have said that the word directs the music to rise or lift up at this time in the singing of the Psalm. Still others suggest it means forever, or “it is done,” or completed.

In any event, the word “Selah” reminds those who are singing and the instrumentalists to take a moment in time to be aware of the words of the Psalm – a dramatic moment in which the words are embedded into the heart and mind of those in worship. Just imagine if in our worship, the leader just stopped for a moment and said, “Pause, think about the words you just shared together; pause and listen to your heart, let the meaning of the poetry and the music fill your spirit.”

Image via John Mark Arnold on

For me, the word is a reminder of the need to let God filter into the crevices and cracks of my normal routine. It is a call for me in my life to be aware of the God who fills all life with evidence of the Holiness of Creation, the majesty of God’s presence, in worship and in my times of personal refreshment. “Selah,” in its placement in the Psalm, allows us to focus on the times when we are deeply aware of eternity, an everlasting presence in our lives.

Perhaps as a prelude to the upcoming season of fall, after a long hot summer, we can all pause to consider the God who creates, the God of our lives and our worshiping communities. Pause and listen to the call of the Spirit and our response to God’s presence in all things both great and small.


Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silent, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” -Psalm 32

About the author

David Merrit author bio photograph

The Rev. David Merritt is a retired Pastor, former Dean, Outreach Director, and Chaplain, but he’s “papa” according to his grand-kids. David loves God, Laurel Ridge, and his family. He has enough sense to get out of the rain but prefers raindrops anyway.

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