Psalm 46: Selah, The Pause that Refreshes

Psalm 46

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.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

China Pink Dianthus-3 | Mercer Botanical Garden | March 2023

The word selah is a kind of mystery. It means, perhaps a musical interlude, or a pause in the flow of the psalm. I’ve written about selah previously. In 2009, I suggested it was a kind of STOP sign for us and quoted John Ortberg’s book (see below). More recently I wrote about how is an invitation to stop and think about what is just said. Today I want to invite you to pause and refresh your soul along your path of life as a follower of Jesus.

Resting is actually essential to a fully-productive life of a disciple of Jesus. And there are at least two issues we must face in this regard. First of all we’re not so sure we want to be fully-productive. We’d rather be at peace, happy, fulfilled, content, and enjoying life. So to offer this idea as a means of being fully-productive is potentially a non-starter for many. But this is God’s desire for us. Jesus desires that we bear much fruit as his disciples.

But, pausing to refresh is essential to a fully-productive life of following Jesus?!? That doesn’t make sense. It is counter-intuitive to think that pausing to refresh is essential to a fully-productive life of following Jesus. We would imagine that working harder and more efficiently is key to be more productive. This is where John Ortberg’s insights are so helpful:

In his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Ortberg recalls a conversation with a spiritual mentor whose advise he is seeking.

“What is the next thing I should be doing if I want to deepen my relationship with God?” he asks [I am paraphrasing the conversation here]. His friend answers, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

John replies, “OK. Got that. What’s next?”

His kind spiritual mentor says, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Ortberg says, “Yeah, I’ve got that. What else is there?”

The mentor says, “There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Ortberg’s mentor, as I recall is Dallas Willard, a spiritual disciplines guru. He didn’t think this up from scratch. He got it from Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that abiding in him (pausing and being refreshed by his presence) is the key to bearing fruit (being productive in our lives as his followers).

[Jesus says,] “ I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:1-5

So pause today and remember to be still and know that God is God. He will be exalted among the nations and in all the earth. As we pause and refresh, we will discover not only the life we’ve always wanted, but also the gracious blessing of bearing fruit. All this for the glory of God, your joy, and the blessing of many. For now, though, enjoy the pause that refreshes. And just so you know, I’m not talking about having a Coke! I’m talking about pausing to reflect on God’s word, his promises, his goodness, and reign and rule, and his work in the world. This psalm helps us do just that.

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