I pass the same Burger King restaurant several times a week, though I’ve never actually eaten there. On my frequent passings, I’ve noticed the three words on one side of the marquee sign: YOU RULE MURFREESBORO. As I was recently pondering those words during my turn to stop at a red light, I thought about what the Burger King employee was hoping that I and my fellow travelers would take away from this message. I assume he was attempting to brighten our day with a “You’re awesome!” kind of cheer.
But as I reflected on the punctuation of the sign, I imagined it was more of a declaration of my legitimacy to sit on the royal throne for my city. I wanted to roll down my window and shout: “I RULE MURFREESBORO! IT SAYS IT RIGHT THERE ON THAT SIGN!” but I didn’t. Instead, I chuckled to myself and wondered if commas usually come in the alphabet kits for those signs. Because that’s what was missing from that three-word declaration, and it highlights the importance of a little comma, a pause, a break.
There’s a word we see 74 times in the Bible, 37 of those instances used by King David. It’s a word I usually just skip over with no notice when I’m reading. It’s the word Selah. There’s some confusion about what this word means. Is it instruction for the singers, like forte or crescendo? Is it meant to divide sections of the text, to prepare the listeners for a transition in the emotions? When it comes at the end of a text, is it like our word Amen? A final “let it be so” we whisper at the close of a string of laments and petitions and praises? The answer to all these questions seems to be yes. This busy, little word does all of those things in our Psalms, but it also encourages us to do something which I way too often forget. In the midst of our busy lives, Selah tells us to pause and listen. It reminds us to lift up the words we’re singing.
One example can be found in Psalm 24. It starts off with “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Then the Selah comes at the very end, after David says, “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.”
In my moment of Selah, I try to imagine the winding line of priests and Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant—the mercy seat of God—into the city of Jerusalem. The worshippers call out for those inside to open the doors and gates of the city so they can bring the ark inside. Instead of spending their workdays and free time thinking they were self-sufficient, fully in charge, and invincible because of those the tall city walls, they were invited to open their hearts to what (Who) was approaching, “that the King of glory may come in.” You rule, Lord Almighty! Selah and Amen.