Let's Go Back to the Bible

Reading with the Selah

There is a quote that is often attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Music is not in the notes but in the silence between.” Would it surprise you that the average person does not like the quiet stillness of silence? There are times that we enjoy it for a moment. Would you be willing to see how long could you go without talking or without filling that empty space of silence? There are so many things we do to keep from getting to that point where silence seems to overwhelm. There is a place in that silence where we can begin to think on or meditate on things that the noise of everyday life does not allow us.

There is a word in Hebrew, it shows up mostly in the Psalms, that is transliterated as Selah.  This word seems to be direction for the singing or reading of the psalm. Most translate it as instruction to pause. I do not intend to make this word mean anything more than that. However, it does introduce a thought about our reading of the Bible. Of the Christian disciplines, we put a lot emphasis on reading, and there should be. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Most of us read it as a textbook—information to download and have on ready recall mode. We might read for the sake of just getting through it, maybe to unlock an achievement medal like the Made It Through Leviticus Award or the Numbers Senses Award. To be fair, the Bible includes various types of literature, and those types might be read in different ways. Have we ever thought about reading it with more pauses? Not the, “I got distracted and I’m thinking about something else pause,” but a purposeful, clear, and untainted pause. Consider this passage, “Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah” (Psa. 4:4). What would happen if we added meditation to our reading schedule? “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa. 1:1-2). Meditation has become a lost practice. Mostly because it takes up so much of our most precious commodity, time. We seem to have so little of it for the things we need to do, yet we make time for the things we want to do.

Reading with meditation is no more than taking the time to think on the passage. Think on how it applies to you. Or, how does it fit in God’s overall message? Try reading the Psalms with the Selah and practice the pause. Another exercise would be to read some of your favorite passages and put your own Selah in the text. Most importantly, slow down your reading and leave time for the silence between. I guarantee you will be surprised what you find.