Summary: In the midst of our problems, let’s pause, pivot and praise God!
Coping with the Coronavirus
Rev. Brian Bill
March 28-29, 2020
In the sermon I preached in the days right after 9/11, I referenced a question from former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark after the towers tumbled and parts of the Pentagon were pulverized. Here’s what he asked: “Will we ever be the same?” My answer then and my answer now is the same: “I hope not. The worst thing that could happen would be for us to go back to the way we were before. We must not stay the same. We must never be the same again.”
Preaching involves at least two responsibilities. The first is to explain the Bible and relate it to life. The second is to take life and explain it in light of Scripture. My goal today is to accomplish both of these purposes.
Please turn to Psalm 46. This song, written by the sons of Korah, is set in the context of catastrophic chaos, troublesome times, and unparalleled uncertainty. The writer’s world was crumbling all around him. This Psalm was written with the nation of Israel in mind, but it certainly applies to us today.
Before we get into the text of the Psalm, I want you to see the word “Selah” after verse 3, verse 7, and verse 11. This word is used 74 times in the Old Testament, 71 times in the Psalms and three times in the Book of Habakkuk. Speaking of Habakkuk, the message next weekend will be from this often-forgotten prophet. We’re calling it, “Trust God No Matter What.”
Most versions of the Bible do not attempt to translate “Selah” but simply transliterate the word straight from the Hebrew. We know from the title of this Psalm that it was designed to be sung: “To the choirmaster…a song.” It seems likely then that it refers to a musical rest, in which singers stopped singing to take a breath so only the musical instruments could be heard. According to one Bible dictionary, it can also signify a musical crescendo followed by silent reflection.
The Septuagint, which is the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates “Selah” as “intermission.” The New Living Translation picks up on this by using the word, “interlude.” The idea is to get us to take a breath in order to reflect and remember. I like how the Amplified Version renders it: “Pause and calmly think about that.”
In addition, “Selah” is thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words translated as: “to praise” and “to lift up.” Perhaps the singers paused so they would think about what they had just sung in praise to God. It’s in the imperative, meaning this is something we’re commanded to do. That seems to be how the word is used in Habakkuk 3 where we’re urged to consider the weightiness of what we’ve just read or heard.
The best way to think of “Selah” is a combination of all these meanings. We could say it like this: In the midst of our problems, let’s pause, pivot and praise. Because the word “Selah” appears three times in this passage, we’ll follow this natural outline by pausing, pivoting and praising each time we come across it.
Listen now to God’s holy, inspired, inerrant and authoritative Word.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
In the midst of our problems, let’s pause, pivot and praise God for…
1. His Promise – He is for you (1-3)
2. His Presence – He is with you (4-7)
3. His Power – He is above you (8-11)
His Promise – He is For You!
Let’s look at the first three verses: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.” This name for God is “Elohim” which reminds us He is Creator, King, Judge and Savior.