Selah!

Dr. David Allen | Dean of the School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

**This article was previously posted by Dr. David L. Allen on his website www.drdavidlallen.com and is used by permission. 

Dr. Allen is: Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Luther’s ramshackle cart wobbled its way to Worms, Germany, in April of 1521. He had been summoned to appear before the Emperor and Catholic Prelates to give an account of this new “heresy” he was teaching called “justification by faith alone.” The learned Johann Eck laid out all of Luther’s writings and then asked Luther if he was prepared to recant.

Luther retired to his room that night. His Bible fell open to Psalm 46:

“The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefor we will not fear, though the earth gives way . . . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Luther returned the next morning to stand before his Catholic detractors. In response to their call to recant, Luther responded:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

The Reformation was off and running.

It was Martin Luther’s favorite Psalm. During the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation, Luther would turn to his trusted friend Phillip Melanchthon and exclaim:

“Let’s sing the 46th Psalm, and let the devil do his worst!”

It inspired his great hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

No Psalm in all the Psalter expresses the tremendous truth that God’s presence and power are with us in all circumstances more than the 46th Psalm.  We need to know God offers us two kinds of help: a stronghold into which we can flee and a source of strength by which we can face the uncertain future.

Psalm 46 is divided into three stanzas, each ending with the mysterious Hebrew word “Selah.” “Selah” was most likely originally a musical notation indicating a pause in the music for contemplation on what was just sung. You might translate it “Pause and think of that!”

When the mountains quake, the Lord is my refuge and strength. . . Selah! When nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall, the Lord almighty is with us. . . Selah! Be still and know that I am God…the Lord almighty is with us. . . Selah!

Every new day brings us 24 hours of uncertainty. Every new year brings us 365 days of uncertainty. But every second of every hour of every day, God’s presence and power in our lives is available to us. What does the future hold?  It really doesn’t matter, does it, as long as Psalm 46 is true! HIS KINGDOM IS FOREVER!  So every day, reflect on Psalm 46, and “Selah!”. . . pause and think of that!