I have been a musician most of my life. I started singing alongside my uncles at nursing homes and at revivals when I was old enough to hold a microphone (I’m guessing about 4 or 5). I started singing in the Adult Choir (yes, the Adult Choir) at my home church when I was 9. I started playing trumpet when I was 12. Somewhere in all of that I learned to read music and in college took two years of music theory, had countless hours of voice lessons, piano lessons, form & analysis, conducting…(you get the idea).
And if you know anything about music, it has its own language. Pick up a piece of music and you see things like: Coda, Poco a Poco, Dolce, Fine, and Allegro. Some things are even abbreviated, which makes the language of music even more secretive: f, mp, rit., and gliss. Add to this all those signs & symbols that look like birds’ eyes, backwards c’s, and dots with tails. Music is indeed a foreign language (even though much of the words used on manuscripts are Italian).
And the music in the Bible is no different. Look at the Psalms and you will see what I mean (remember, the book of Psalms is a song book). In Psalm 6 we see “sheminth,” in Psalm 7 there is “shiggaion” and in Psalm 8, “gittith.” Unfortunately much of the musical terminology found in the Psalms (and elsewhere in the Old Testament) has been lost throughout the centuries. Scholars can only guess what some of these mean.
But there are some terms which we do know. For instance, a “maskil” is a type of psalm that teaches you something (there are 13 of these). Another is the word “Selah,” found 71 times in the book of Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. Although scholars aren’t 100% sure of what “selah” means, there is a general consensus that it is a musical instruction that tells the singer (or the reader as in our case) to pause. More than that, we are to pause and measure carefully, to consider & reflect on what we have just sang/read.
Selah is a word that we need to insert into our Scripture reading more often. We need to stop, pause, consider and listen to what God has told us in the passage we have read. We need to hold on, wait a minute, and reflect. Too often we rush through things. We read a passage and move on without really meditating on what it is that God is trying to teach us. We do that in life as well. We rush through experiences without pausing to consider what God wants us to learn from them.
So this week, as you rush through your daily Bible reading…take a moment of pause. Insert a Selah. Measure carefully what you have read; look for what it is that God is trying to tell you…to tell YOU…in the passage. As you go about your day, insert a Selah. Stop, reflect, consider. Slow down. Linger a while and soak in the moment. God is speaking. Take time to listen…to really listen to the music God is singing in your ear. Selah.