They come early and stay late. They have seats but mostly stand. They raise their arms and wave their hands. They shout until the veins in their necks stand out. They watch eagerly and listen carefully. They encourage enthusiastically. They laugh. They cry. They are watching the game—basketball, football, baseball, soccer. And they are anything but uninvolved.
On Sunday mornings they go to worship. They come late and leave early. They stand only when asked. They fold their arms and lay their hands in their laps. They sing listlessly. They watch occasionally and listen sporadically. They greet each other unenthusiastically. They smile silently and cry internally. They are approaching God. And too often they are anything but involved.
Does this describe you? I know I’m describing myself here. It’s not that I check out of worship; I just do not check in. I go through the motions, unconcerned about the outcome.
So now I want to make a plea for what I call “three-selah worship.” Psalm 46 begins with this incredible affirmation: “God is our refuge and strength.” When the earth gives way, when the foundations shake, when the tsunami approaches, God is our refuge and strength. There may be reason for concern but not for collapse.
It’s right there in the margin at the end of verse 3, that strange word we never quite know what to do with when we are reading a psalm responsively in church. Apparently it means that we’re to stop, inhale deeply, and let the wonder of what we’ve just heard or read wash over us. That will bring us to our feet. That will bring tears to our eyes and elicit shouts of praise from our mouths. That will encourage our enthusiasm and involvement.
Another stanza in this hymn of praise reassures us of the strengthening, settling, faith-building presence of the Almighty, the Creator—the Invincible, Most High God. It culminates in verse 7 with “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
There it is again. Think of what this verse means. Do not just imagine it, but believe it. Bask in it. Rise up in a standing ovation of praise. Consider what a difference it ought to make in your life and attitude and outlook and conversation. Soak in this awesome truth!
Verse 8 invites our examination. Look at what God has done and is doing. Revolutionary? Absolutely.
I am regularly in touch with believers in Egypt, which our news media portrays as being on the brink of chaos. There, in the midst of what we consider cultural collapse, God is doing great things. Above the noise of the bombs and the bombast is his whisper of peace: “Be still and know that I am God.” The psalm concludes with a reminder that the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
If that third selah doesn’t fill your spirit, I don’t know what will.
Let’s engage this three-selah perspective not only in our worship but in our living. Gone with dismay! Out with despair! Off with despondency!
“The Lord Almighty is with us.” That affirmation, I suggest, is what prompts us to try to bring this world back to God. It motivates us to invite the nations into the kingdom of our God. It upholds our mission enterprise and empowers our service. And it constitutes our hope. That affirmation invites us to stand and shout and applaud adoringly.
A realization of the presence and power of God is the only thing that will bring our world back to God. And it will bring us there too. So I’m all for three-selah living!