Confession Is Good For You

One of the best definition of Selah is the bracketed comment used next to that word in the Amplified Bible: pause, and calmly think of that. 

Psalm 32 is only eleven verses long, yet Selah—a call to pause and ponder—is used three times. In other words, David is very interested in getting us to weigh something important. This whole psalm is a call to ponder the heavy, unbearable burden of unconfessed sins vs. the freedom and fresh start that comes immediately with confession.

And in case you think that confession is just something that someone does one time when they become a Christian, keep in mind that David is writing this song to be sung by the choir in church. That means confession is good for everyone!

The weighty CURSES of unconfessed sin

  • I feel worn out, wasting away like old, flimsy clothes (v. 3a)
  • I am groaning (v. 3b)—I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears (Psalm 6:6)
  • I feel God’s hand of displeasure heavy upon me (v. 4a AMP) 
  • My strength evaporates like water in the summer heat (v. 4b NLT) 
  • I’m led around like a dumb mule (v. 9)
  • I experience many woes (v. 10a) 

Then comes confession—I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord continually unfolding the past till all is told”—then You instantly forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin (v. 5 AMP).  

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

The weighty BLESSINGS after confessed sin

  • My transgressions are forgiven, which means they are lifted up and carried away (v. 1a)
  • My sins are covered; they are literally overwhelmed by God’s forgiveness (v. 1b)
  • My sin is no longer counted against me (v. 2a) because my record of forgiven sins has been cleared (v. 2b NLT; see also Psalm 103:2-3, 12) 
  • I get a fresh start, my slate’s wiped clean … Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared (vv. 1, 5 MSG) 
  • I’m protected in God’s hiding place and surrounded by God’s songs (vv. 7, 10b)
  • God instructs me and protects me to keep me from sinning again (v. 8)

What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record (v. 2 TLB) 

The mark of a maturing Christian is the one who is constantly closing the gap between sin and confession. 

Don’t let unconfessed sin weigh you down. As soon as you feel the Holy Spirit pointing something out in your heart, confess it and experience God’s immediate release! 

I am going to share one more message in this series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday (but, God willing, we will return to this next summer). Please join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

Going Into The Heavy Presence Of God

“The King of glory” is a phrase that’s only used five times in the Bible, and all five times are packed into just four verses of Psalm 24. In this psalm, David lets us know who can enter into this awesome, heavy presence of the King of Glory. 

Why do I say “heavy”? The definition of the Hebrew word for glory always refers to a heaviness. There is something majestically, awesomely heavy about going before the All-Righteous, All-Powerful, All-Holy, All-Knowing, Absolutely Perfect God. Can any mere mortal enter into this presence? 

In an earlier psalm, David said, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face” (Psalm 11:7). But in this psalm, David asks, “Who can ascend Your holy hill? Who can come into Your presence?” (Psalm 24:3). 

He answers the question with these words: the upright, the one with clean hands and a pure heart (he expands this list even more in Psalm 15), then he calls on us to Selah—pause and weigh this as if on a scale. David is asking, “Do you really want to enter into the weighty presence of the King of Glory?” 

If you do, something needs to happen first. David calls his generation (and our generation) the generation of Jacob. You can read the story of Jacob’s life beginning in Genesis 27. Jacob was a pragmatic man. If he could get away with something, he did. He only looked out for his own interests. He deceived, he connived, he bribed, he calculated his odds—he did what he had to so that he could advance himself. He didn’t realize God’s weight. He saw God only through a scarcity-mindset that gave God limits. He thought there was only a limited supply, and if somebody else was getting a blessing, then that meant there was less for him to get.

Then Jacob encountered God and discovered that he couldn’t do a thing against this weighty King of Glory. When he finally submitted to God, his name was changed to Israel. Jacob—the self-sufficient man—would never be allowed to enter the doors into God’s heavy glory. But Israel—the submitted man—may ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy presence. Jacob means deceitful; Israel means the man without any deceit. 

For the rest of his life, Israel walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder that he simply wasn’t the man he was before he wrestled with God.

  • Jacob could only obtain what he could finagle; Israel is the recipient of all God’s blessings. 
  • Jacob could only keep his gains for this life; Israel got God’s blessings for eternity. 
  • Jacob might be vindicated by men; Israel is definitely and completely vindicated by God. 
  • Jacob couldn’t enter the presence of the King of Glory; Israel was welcomed as a prince into God’s presence.

Here’s the challenge I would give you… Use either Psalm 15 or Psalm 24:3-4 and let the Holy Spirit wrestle with you. Is there anything that’s holding you back from going through those doors into the weighty presence of the King of glory? If there is, confess it, repent from it, and even limp away from it (if you have to) so that you don’t miss out on God’s eternal blessings. 

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

Renewed Passion For Prayer

If I were to ask you if we should we pray for our friends in need, I think I’d probably get a universal “yes.” Even non-Christians might say we should “send good thoughts” or “best wishes” to our friends.

But if I were to ask, “How long should we pray for them?” we might get a lot of different answers. 

What about if we’re praying for a friend to get a job (and he gets it), or a friend to be healed (and she is), or a marriage to be restored (and it is)—do we stop praying then? 

Psalm 20 and 21 appear to be companion psalms: with Psalm 20 being David’s prayer of petition, and Psalm 21 being his prayer of praise. But there is also something quite interesting in each of these psalms about the placement of the word Selah. 

Remembering that Selah means some sort of pause, I find it very interesting where David tells us to pause in both of these psalms. In Psalm 20 we see the prayer request “may” either 6 or 7 times in the first five verse, but the Selah pause is right in the middle of them. Why would David start making his requests to God, tell us to pause in the middle, and then continue making his requests? 

I believe this Selah means to “pause and consider” that… 

  1. God invites us to participate with Him in fulfilling His plans. 
  2. God loves us so much that He wants to hear from us. 
  3. God is powerful enough to grant what we ask of Him. 

It’s as if in the middle of all of his petitions, David says, “Hold on a second. Do you realize what we are in the midst of doing? We are actually communing with the All-Knowing, All-Loving, All-Power Creator and Sustainer of the Universe!!”

In Psalm 21 David is offering up a prayer of praise for God’s answers to his prayers (note the similar language in Psalm 20:4 and 21:2), and once again he tells us to Selah pause right in the middle of those prayers of gratitude. 

I asked earlier, “When do we stop praying for a friend or for ourselves?” Is it when we get the job, or experience the healing, or have the breakthrough or restoration? What if the job, the healing, the restoration was just the beginning of what God wanted to do? The Selah in Psalm 21 is an accentuation: an explosion into so much more!! 

David prayed for victory in battle, but gave him an everlasting victory; David prayed for long life, but God gave him eternal life (21:4); David prayed for blessings on his battle, but God gave him His eternal blessings (21:6).

Jesus said our Heavenly Father has gifts for us beyond our asking (Matthew 7:11), and the Apostle Paul said the same thing in Ephesians—

Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Ephesians 3:20 TLB)

These two Selahs tell me: 

Don’t quit praying when times are tough. 
Don’t quit praying when you’ve prayed a long time. 
Don’t quit praying when it seems like God has answered. 
Keep on praying. Always. About everything!

 

Please join me this coming Sunday as we continue to look at the Selahs in the Psalms. You can join me in person or via Facebook Live. 

Unexpected Praise

Well, this isn’t what I expected! David says his song in Psalm 9 is supposed to be sung to the tune of “Death Of The Son,” so I’m expecting a prayer that is loaded with minor notes. But instead, David gives us … this! 

The opening verses show us David exploding in praise to God. Check out his vocabulary—

  • I will praise You—this literally means David is pumping his hands in the air
  • I will tell of all Your wonders—David is not doing this just one time but is ticking off a long list of God’s praiseworthy deeds and attributes
  • I will be glad—his face lights up with joy 
  • I will rejoice—this word means a roar of praise (see 1 Chronicles 16:32)
  • I will sing praise—there is a new melody with every praise David lifts to God

Why this loud, exuberant, unexpected praise? Because David has noticed that whatever has “died” on earth is only a temporary loss, but God is forever! 

There is an unusual word pairing at the end of verse 16: Haggaion and Selah. This is the only time these two words appear like this in all of Scripture, and it’s also the only time Haggaion is used without being translated. 

Haggaion appears just four times in the Bible—(a) in Psalm 19:14 where it is translated meditation; (b) in Psalm 92:3 where it is translated solemn sound; (c) in Lamentations 3:62 where it is translated whisper and mutter; and (d) here in Psalm 9 where it is untranslated. 

By combining Haggaion and Selah, David is wanting us to solemnly meditate on an important contrast: God’s way vs. man’s way. In verses 3-16, David uses huge and eternal terms for God like righteous Judge, reigns forever, refuge, stronghold, merciful, and prayer-answerer. 

Side-by-side with these eternal terms for God, David lists the temporary terms for man like stumble, perish, ruined, forgotten, and trapped. In fact, David ends this Psalm by reminding us evil men who do evil things are “mere men.” Other translations fill in the details: 

  • make them realize their frail nature (AMP)
  • show them how silly they look (MSG)
  • merely human (NLT) 
  • puny men (TLB)

Then David ends with a final Selah—one more call for us to allow this message to resonate with us, especially during the times others may call dark, depressing times. The message that should resonate in our hearts and cause us to throw our hands up in joyful celebration of God is…

these earthly things are temporary and God is eternal. He has never forsaken those who seek Him, and He has never forgotten those who call on Him for help. 

When a dark time—a “death of a son”—tries to rock your world, don’t do what puny mortals expect, but throw your hands up in the air, and sing and roar a praise to the Almighty God Who cares for you! 

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue our looks at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live.

Grudges Can Block God’s Blessings

In Psalm 7, some guy named Cush is giving David trouble. How much trouble? David felt like Cush was a lion about to rip him apart! 

We would naturally expect David to cry out for God’s help from this tormentor (which he does in the opening verses), but then what David does next is quite unexpected—he asks to God to search his heart to see if he might be the cause for Cush’s attack: 

  • Have I done something wrong?
  • Is there guilt on my hands?
  • Have I done such an evil to cause him to attack? 
  • Have I somehow robbed Cush of something? 

This introspection in God’s presence was apparently a regular habit for David. He made this a regular habit when the heat was on, and also when he was at peace (see Psalm 139:23-24). 

Not only did David want to make sure his hands were clean, but he also wanted to make sure he wasn’t carrying a grudge against Cush. A grudge is a feeling of anger or resentment toward someone who has wronged us. But the most devastating thing about a grudge is that it takes our eyes off God and places them on our tormentor. 

In other words, as long as we hold a grudge, we continue to give our tormentor power over our lives. 

So after asking those introspective questions, David writes Selah. One definition of this word—which is probably quite appropriate here—is pause, and calmly think of that. 

After this Selah pause of introspection in God’s presence, David must have felt clear of any guilt (because we don’t see him repenting, as is his habit), but we also see him being very careful of not holding on to a grudge against Cush. 

David then begins to affirm in the remaining verses that God is more than capable of handling evil people and keeping the righteous protected. David determines that he will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Most High (v. 17). 

Here’s an important thing for anyone who has been injured by someone else to remember—

By holding on to a grudge, you’re holding yourself in bondage! 

How can your hands be free to receive God’s blessings if your hands are full of the grudges you are holding? 

Learn from David’s Selah these two lessons when someone torments you: 

  1. Ask God: am I to blame? If so, repent. If not, ask question 2.
  2. Ask God: am I holding on to a grudge? If so, let it go so your hands are free to receive God’s blessings! 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

The Selah That Keeps Us From Sinning

There is a very natural emotion that we humans have when someone has hurt us, but if we don’t pause (Selah), that natural emotion can lead us into sin. David has good counsel for angry people in Psalm 4. 

Many scholars think that Psalm 4 is a continuation—or a part 2—of Psalm 3. As you will notice in the preface of Psalm 3, David is on the run from his son Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingdom of Israel from him. 

Look at the swing of David’s emotions:

  • Troubled/sad (v. 1) 
  • Anger (v. 4)
  • Contentment (v. 7)
  • Peace (v. 8)

The first time David tells his readers to Selah pause is between verses 2 and 3. The change is almost an about-face: 

Look at this: look who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to Him. Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for His verdict (vv. 3-5 in The Message). 

My friend Josh Schram shared these truths: 

  1. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. 
  2. It’s right to be angry, but it’s not right to sin. 
  3. When someone hurts us, it’s tempting to break God’s law. We can almost justify it, but it is a sin to give in to anger. 

“Search your heart and be silent”Selah. This pause gives us hope that we can “build your case before God and wait for His verdict.” 

In Romans 12:17-21, Paul gives similar counsel when dealing with enemies:  As far as it depends on you…

  • Don’t repay evil for evil. 
  • Do repay evil with doing what’s right. 
  • Don’t take revenge. 
  • Do let God handle it. 
  • Don’t mistreat your enemies. 
  • Do bless your enemies. 
  • Don’t be overcome by evil. 
  • Do overcome evil by doing good. 

Since David let his anger go, that also means he didn’t sin! His clear conscience meant he could lie down and sleep in peace. 

You cannot hold a grudge and peace in the same heart. 

Please join me next week as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

Argument Vs. Experience

There is a curious word that shows up about 70 times in the Bible (almost all of them in the Psalms)—Selah. The best scholars can figure is that this word has some sort of musical meaning: 

  1. Pause / Interlude—to rest in silence. This might even be where the singers stopped while the music continued. 
  1. Accentuation—to lift up or exalt; as in the renewed vigor of the singer or musician after pausing for a deep breath. 
  1. Consideration—the root word for Selah means to weigh on a balance, with the idea of despising the things that are light or trivial, and valuing the things that carry weight or substance. The Amplified Bible uses the phrase “pause and calmly think of that.” 

All three are valid definitions, and all three are used in the Psalms. I think the context of the Psalm makes it clear which one is meant. Sometimes more than one meaning is implied, and sometimes all three meanings are implied. 

Selah first shows up in Psalm 3. This is also one of the few psalms that uses Selah multiple times. We also get a clue to the context in the introduction: A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom [see 2 Samuel 15]. 

David has a lot of enemies ganging up on him? The Message says, “enemies past counting!” And David laments that his enemies are whispering something very negative: “There is no God” or “God is too disinterested or weak to help you” or “You don’t deserve to have God’s help.” 

In the midst of this noise, David pens his first  SELAH—David needs a pause. The enemies past counting have got his thoughts swirling. He needs to pause and calmly think: “I KNOW God can and will help me because He has already helped me in the past. You may have your arguments and reasons, but I have my personal experience with God!” 

Notice the very next word: But (v. 3). You ARE [not were or will be] a shield around me…. To the Lord I CRY aloud [not I used to cry or I will cry], and He ANSWERS [not He answered or He will answer] me… (v. 4).

The second SELAH (v. 4) is the renewed vigor after the pause. The Message says, His answers thunder from the holy mountain. This corresponds with what David wrote when God delivered him previously (see Psalm 18:4-13). Then in the next four verses, David lists all the blessings that come when God answers: 

    • sleep 
    • sustaining power 
    • no fear of the tens of thousands on every side
    • deliverance
    • retribution for enemies 
    • God’s blessing—Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes Your people! (v. 8 in MSG) 

David concludes this psalm with one final SELAH (v. 8)—to weigh on a balance. On one side: accusations and threats (only words). On the other side: personal experience of past deliverance and confident assurance of God’s present presence and rock-solid hope in God’s future grace. Pause and calmly consider those scales: which side are you on? Do you have only words, or do you have personal experience? 

The one with an experience with God is NEVER at the mercy of the one with only an argument against God. 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live. 

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