For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honour;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
I thought it strange for a Christian to say, especially one who was a minister. But he said he wanted to read the Bible less. Then he finished his thought: “I want to read the Bible less and reflect more on what I read.”
I was taken by his words, feeling the need to do what he said because in general, I do like to read. I was raised on Harry Truman’s adage, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” So, I’ve always tried to read a lot. Then you throw in the Internet, Kindle, and eLibrary, and I feel like I’m drinking from a fire hydrant. I feel an inflation of words. I remind myself of poet T. S. Eliot’s warning two generations ago: “Knowledge of speech, but not of silence; Knowledge of words, but ignorance of the Word.” (poem, “The Rock”) I like the idea of reading the Bible less and reflecting on it more. I need to!
So, I am taken by the word “Selah” at the end of today’s scripture text. I remember as a boy asking my mother what “Selah” meant. She explained, “’Selah’ means that what you have just read is so important that you need to stop and think about it.” I later learned that my Hebrew professors couldn’t have said it any better than mom!
“Selah” is used 71 times in the Old Testament, often popping right up in the middle of a passage. It is an interesting word, coming from a root word meaning “to hang”, as in hanging up something to weigh it on scales. In Bible times, food, precious metals, and other commodities were hung up to weigh and to assess value. Thus, when we read “Selah” in scripture, we are being asked to stop and to ‘weigh’ what we have just read. We are being asked to stop and think deeply about it. I think of “Selah: like a railroad crossing sign saying: “Stop! Look! Listen!” This is why I like the ancient spiritual practice of Lectio Divina, or, Divine Reading. After having read and studied the Bible for many years, Lectio Divina has come to be very important to me. We know that Martin Luther was doing Lectio Divina with Psalm 46 (see last week’s eVotional, “Shaken”) when prompted to write the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”. Lectio Divina comes in four steps READ…REFLECT…RESPOND…REST:
- READ slowly and prayerfully, two or three times, a short Scripture text. As you read, listen for God speaking to you through the words. Pay close attention to a word or phrase that stands out to you.
- REFLECT on what you have just read, savoring the word or phrase that stood out, meditating on it.
- RESPOND to God speaking to you in what you have read. Talk to God about the feelings, thoughts, and questions raised in your reading and reflection. Take time to make this a real dialogue with God’s Spirit living within you.
- REST in God’s presence for a few moments. For years this step had been missing, but is a vital element in reading and reflecting. In this step, let yourself experience the rest Jesus promises. No need here for any effort or trying to please. Just be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). The old monks called this, “Lap time with God.” Crawl up into God’s lap and rest awhile.
Now, how about a suggestion? Don’t rush away, but take a few moments to take the scripture at the top of today’s page and READ, REFLECT, RESPOND, and REST. After all, it does conclude with “Selah”, telling us it is important to stop and pay close attention! You might start with just the first sentence: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress…”
My mother was right, as usual! Here is something important to stop, think, and pray about!
A fellow traveler,