“God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:1–4
The Hebrew word “Selah” frequently appears throughout the psalms. Most of us when we see it have no idea what it means so we brush past it hurriedly as if it were an odd person on the side walk that we were afraid of being seen with. But this hurried departure is exactly the opposite action the author intended us to have. The word is a command, which means it’s not to be ignored or taken lightly.
The crazy thing about this command, that occurs seventy-four times throughout the psalms, is that it has from ancient times resisted translation. Which means that while David and Asaph knew exactly what they were calling us to do we don’t.
Recently I was attending a lecture and the presenter assigned a helpful definition to the word. He said it meant “think about it”. While I’m not sure that this is literally accurate I believe that functionally this is the action we’re being called to take.
In Psalm eighty-two Asaph has just said that God stands in the midst of the people and judges among the mighty ones and then asks, “How long will you judge in such a way that you favor the wicked?” This question is then followed by the word “selah”, and it seems accurate that this is a call to think about the preceding statement and question.
Too often we rush through life giving little if any thought to anything truly important in our lives. We think long and hard about clothing, and houses, and money, and entertainment and a host of other things that will soon become meaningless.
In the judgment will God ask to see our bank records or stock portfolios? Will he consider the quality of our homes or wardrobes? Will he take into account which sports teams we’re fans of or the depth of our knowledge of popular trivia?
No. People, their needs for provision, care and lovingkindness; the fairness, generosity, and compassion with which we treat them, this is important to God and this is what he wants us to think about.
Doctrine, theological expertise and depth in biblical knowledge will get you nowhere if they’re not combined with actions that show that Christ’s love for people has also been added to your heart. Don’t get me wrong, the knowledge is important. God wouldn’t have given it to us if it weren’t. But both Old and New Testament repeatedly emphasize that living God’s love for the people he loves is the highest priority for his children.