“Selah” strewn among the Psalms

Selah is scattered randomly through the Psalms seventy-one times; it never occurs within the text itself but alongside as a notation in the margin; and no one is sure of its exact meaning – though scholars guess it is “pause for benediction.”

Eugene Peterson writes that “these psalms that teach us to pray are, all of them, prayers of people gathered as a community before God in worship… Selah, untranslated and untranslateable, strewn through the Psalms, will not let us forget [that we are the community in prayer before God in worship].  If its meaning is an enigma, its use is clear: Selah directed people who were together to do something or other together… The implications of this are far-reaching and profound for all who learn to pray: we learn to pray by being led in prayer” (Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer).

Therefore, be led in prayer by Psalm 32 – a “Maskil” (contemplative poem) titled “The Joy of Forgiveness.”  With faithful or faithless, or with no one else at all, you will be directed in these 11 verses, to Selah three times:

1Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to thee,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my trangressions to the Lord”;
then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.  Selah
6 Therefore let every one who is godly
offer prayer to thee;
at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 Thou art a hiding place for me,
thou preservest me from trouble;
thou dost encompass me with deliverance.  Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you
the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not keep with you.
10 Many are the pangs of the wicked;
but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!


About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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