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God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change

And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;

Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

Psalm 46:1-3

Psalm 46 is such a powerful reminder of God’s faithful presence and strength for our lives, especially in times of trouble. The Psalm has three stanzas, and each is separated with the world Selah, which is a word of assessment and instruction. Selah (pronounced seh-lah) is a Hebrew musical term with a two-fold meaning: pause, interruption and to lift up, exalt.

The assessment is that life has pauses and interruptions of various proportions. Pauses and interruptions are fairly self-evident with the current pandemic and racial tensions. Psalm 46 lists other interruptions including natural disasters (though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea), political upheavals (that nations make uproar, kingdoms totter), and violence (wars). Nothing new in the history of humankind. And yet the Psalmist dares us not to deny such interruption, but instead to acknowledge them and then instructs us on how to respond.

To lift up, exalt… this is the instruction of how we respond. The temptation is to lift up and exalt the interruption (the slipping mountains, tottering kingdoms, and violence) which is so readily seen in all the opinions and info wars going on. The instruction to lift up, exalt – reminds us that we will deify whatever we magnify. In other words we will turn our hearts (which contain our thoughts and attitudes, our attentions and affections) to the things we dwell on. Here is where Selah allows us time to reflect on the interruption and then instructs us to lift up the Lord.

Come, behold the works of the Lord…” (v. 8-9). To behold in Hebrew is to see, to look upon and to speak of the works of the Lord. We are to recall all His mighty deeds (creation, salvation, redemption, forgiveness of sins, the death and resurrection of Jesus for starters) and speak of them to one another. To behold the Lord is to be unable to keep silent about who He is and what He has done. Or as Peter and John said to those who wanted them to keep silent about Jesus, “…we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” To behold is worship – to speak, sing, and proclaim the works of the Lord manifest in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus!

  • works wonders | wrought desolations
    • makes wars to cease (breaks the bow, cuts the spear, burns the chariots)

Cease striving know that I am God (v. 10).

To cease and know… is all about God’s work and not ours. To cease is a command to stop trying to achieve what only God can bestow upon us. To cease grasping for what can only be given, chiefly, His salvation and deliverance from the trouble we are currently facing. In beholding the works of the Lord, we are brought to the relief and realization that…

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold“ (v. 11). The phrase LORD of Hosts is more accurately translated the God of angel armies. It is the God of angel armies who is our very present help in trouble, He is abundantly available for help.

Selah is the assessment and instruction we so desperately need to heed for our own lives and share with others. To acknowledge what is happening – the interruption, the pause – for which God promises to remain present and powerfully active in resolving. Selah can also be understood as a sigh – in that the Holy Spirit with sighs too deep for words to express – cf. Romans 8:26-27. Practically, Selah is intentionally taking a deep breath (sigh) or two or three – several times throughout out the day, beholding the work of the God of angel armies, and receiving with thanksgiving the good He will bring about.

Spiritual Habit: For the coming month, make a daily practice of slowly reading Psalm 46 and take the Selah between each section – deep breaths, beholding His works and wonders, singing, calling on the name of Jesus, giving thanks for His love and salvation. Share what the Lord of Hosts reveals to you in the sighs in between the interruptions. 

Pastor Jon