I had a professor who had a great saying: “Let the music sing you.” In other words, let the art move you, speak through you. There is no need for you to bring meaning, it already has its own.
Even though we don’k know the actual meaning of Selah, it is safe to assume it is a musical term, since it is only found within lyrics. The New Living Translation takes a bold step by translating it as Interlude. So buried within the Psalms, David and the other Psalmists ask us to pause a moment from the words and let the music carry you.
Unfortunately we live in a time when letting the music carry us is usually obliterated by a worship leader or praise team singer inserting an unrelated phrase like “Thank You Jesus,” or “Praise You Jesus.” Now there is nothing wrong with praising Jesus or thanking Jesus, but is that what the song was saying? Is that what the song wants us to ponder? Probably not, but people standing before the congregation just can’t let an instrumental interlude slip by without inserting some sort of vocal interruption.
Now I can hear the objections; “But the Spirit was moving me to sing there.” But what if He wanted you to listen, to ponder. Let’s face it, few of us are not very good at “Being still.” Especially in the middle of a song. But isn’t stillness part of worship? Cannot God speak in ways other than words?
There are 74 occurrences of the this word in the OT, 71 of them in the Psalms and 3 in Habakkuk—who knew, Habakkuk! (Well, I didn’t know.) I would encourage you to look up an occurrence of the word, and examine the context. Where does the interlude fall within the song? What preceded it? Is there something there we need to be still and ponder?
Psalm 3 is brief, but there are three occurrences of Selah in eight verses. What is God saying between the words? Think about it.
1 O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. 2 So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. 4 I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude
5 I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. 6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. 7 Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! 8 Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people. Interlude