I absolutely love music! Since I was young I have been intrigued by the tempos, rhythms, and sounds of music…anything from Mozart to Michael Jackson. From era to era, culture to culture it’s amazing that music has marked time, events, and emotions for the people of history. We even classify parts of history by the music that was written and performed. There is something about a melody that can inspire, comfort and even encourage. Think about your favorite memory or movie and what particular music reminds you of those events.
James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights…”and so we can give thanks to the Lord for creating music and allowing it to minister to our hearts and souls. Furthermore, God even demonstrates His joy in singing stated in
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
All of life is a symphony and the universe is a collective choir before the Lord. When you think about how the birds sing their praise, the humpback whales have their distinct songs in the deep waters and even the crickets on a summer night seem to join the chorus, it’s no wonder we find delight in exalting our good God and Creator with a song.
So you may be wondering what music has to do with loving God with our whole soul and all our breath. The answer is two-fold and both halves are of incredible value as we grow in our love of God.
1. Singing requires good lung power and steady breathing.
2. The Bible gives us a pattern for how to adequately use pauses in our life of worship.
I am fairly certain you would not pay money to hear a singer who wasn’t able to breathe or hold a note for any amount of time. Great singers rarely smoke tobacco or do anything else that would damage their lungs. So too, we as Jesus lovers who desire to live out must take care of our souls.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
You will remember that the Hebrew word for soul has elements of breath in that meaning. Therefore we need to engage in the pursuit of healthy lung capacity if we want to praise God with our whole breath!
One of the ways that we are able to distinguish a melody in any type of music is by notes being ordered on the page. The tempo and time signatures are important as well but there is a most valuable and sometimes overlooked element of music on a page and that is what is called a “rest”. Now this “rest” can be used to only pause the higher notes or the lower notes or can be used to pause all sound for enough time that the hearer appreciates the unique sound of that particular melody. Without any rests in a piece of music, the instrumentalist and the listeners would be overwhelmed with continuous sound. The “rests” make the music sweeter and richer.
This leads us to the Bible and the particular book of Psalms which is really just a collection of ancient songs breathed out by the Holy Spirit through the hearts, mouths and pens of men who loved God.
This 150 chapter song book was written by people who felt every type of emotion. It includes songs of praise, petitions, reflection, and request. We find our own emotions are much like those men of old because we too have experienced many of the heart cries and triumphs written in these songs. Amid these Psalms or songs, we find an interesting and beautiful word… Selah.
Selah in the Hebrew language (the original language of the Psalms) is a musical term and was written on the page to indicate a pause or interruption in the song. It can also imply a “praise pause”! This term is used over 70 times throughout the Psalms and it’s often written right after a profound thought or truth that the singer has just sung. For instance look at Psalm 3
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God. Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord, Selah
and he answered me from his holy hill.
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
Note that the pause or rest comes right after some big truth or some heartfelt emotion in this Psalm. You see, the songs our souls sing in this life are so important but so is the “rest” to reflect and remember why we sing and to Whom we sing is equally important!
Do you remember in Genesis 2:2-3 how God created everything in 6 days and then “rested” from His work? He didn’t rest because He was tired, no….He rested to appreciate what He had accomplished and the realization that His work was good.
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Then, God set up the same pattern for all humanity. We are to labor for 6 days and then rest for a day to reflect and remember. You see, God was showing us that this whole universe beats to the rhythm of His heart and that rhythm is only fully appreciated when we take regular pauses or “rests” in our routine to stop and breathe.
If we neglect to practice these “rests” in our lives, these soul selahs, then we risk being able to love God and live whole souled.
In the New Testament we find Jesus telling the people who were weary from trying to keep up a breakneck spiritual pace in their own strength,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
We need supernatural soul selahsto stop our own selfish tendencies and reset our rhythms to God’s heartbeat in our lives. This isn’t just an outward physical pause, but a soul/spirit pause or rest to know that God is Good and worthy of all our praise and worship and love!
I pray that you take time to enjoy a soul selah this week and offer up a song of praise to the God from Whom all blessings flow!
Angela and her husband currently live in GA, USA. They have four children at home and one married in 2018. Angela is passionate about ministry to women and loves to meet new friends. She’s been teaching the Bible for over 25 years and desires to encourage women to study the Word for themselves and see the beauty of Jesus in their lives.
Thanks for reading!