A Time to Selah! Dec 23

In their efforts to produce accurate and understandable translations, our translators often spend a lot of time wrestling with particular words or phrases. I wonder how they go about translating the word ‘selah’ when they come to the Psalms – or do they simply leave it as it is in the text, as indeed the NIV has done? Here’s a couple of examples of the word being used in the Psalms:

Each man is but a breath” (selah). Psalm 39:11.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge” (selah). Psalm 50:6:  

Selah’ is a Hebrew word which is found 71 times in the Psalms, and 3 times in the book of Habakkuk – but what does it actually mean? It’s true meaning is thought to be a bit of a mystery, and one commentary even noted that the word has been deemed the “puzzle of ordinary readers and the despair of scholars”! Indeed these ‘despairing Bible scholars’ have come up with multiple meanings and possible explanations for the meaning of the word:

  1. A musical term
  2. A synonym of Hebrew words meaning ‘forever
  3. A derivative of the Hebrew root ‘salal’, which means to ‘raise voices of praise’, or ‘make the instruments louder’.  
  4. A pause in the text for reflection.
  5. A combination of the above!

Personally, I like the mixture of No’s 3&4! When the word appears in our Bibles it invites us to pause and reflect on what has been said, before continuing to read the rest of the passage – and then in response, to raise our voices in praise to God. This month, as we approach the end of the year and prepare to close the 2023 diary, it gives us an opportunity to pause………..and ‘selah’.

As I pause to reflect on this past year, I’m amazed at the way in which God has provided for us. Indeed, we can echo the words of Psalm 126:3: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy”. The Seed Company partnership is going well, and we’re blessed to have them on board as partners in this work. They have provided match funding, and are also enabling us to build our capacity as a support base. We’ve also received new funding from fifteen charitable trusts, and we’ve been able to forward the vast majority of that funding to nine different projects in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe. And those projects involve our three main areas of work; Bible translation, literacy, and training.

The illumiNations event back in May was also a highlight event for us, as it provided us with some additional support and some great networking connections. My trip to South Africa in July also enabled me to meet up with many leaders within TWFTW family, and to get a fuller picture of our work internationally. I’ve also had the privilege of visiting twenty different churches this year to present our work, and to preach from God’s Word, and all of those visits have gone well, and have involved safe travel; something I don’t take for granted, especially having spent time on the roads of Tanzania!

So – we pause to give thanks to God for his many blessings on us this year, and as we reflect on the ways in which he has guided us, we ‘raise our voices in praise’. Thank you also to those who have been a part of those blessings; for your financial support, and for your prayers for us and our work. And I hope that as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus in this festive season, we’ll take time to ponder, pause, reflect and praise God for his provision to us. In short, let’s take time to ‘saleh’!

Diary Dates:

  • 30th Nov: Supporters Dinner, Clapham, Bedford
  • 1st Dec: UK Board meeting in Clapham, Bedford (AM)
  • 3rd Dec: Preaching at Morley Community Church in Leeds (AM)
  • 8-11 Dec: Slovakian Romani Bible Launch in Sabinov, Slovakia
  • 10th Dec: Preaching at Hermanovce Evangelical Church, Slovakia (AM) 
  • 14th Dec: Management meeting in Moreton in the Marsh
  • 17th Dec: Preaching at Emersons Green Baptist, Bristol (AM)
  • 22nd Dec: Office closes until Weds 3rd Jan.    

Praise & Prayer Points:

  • During the last 3 months alone, TWFTW has been able to start more than 40 new projects in collaboration with the Seed Company! We continue to praise God for their generous support and partnership.
  • With so much growth happening, we’re grateful to God for the willingness of Wycliffe Bible Translators to help us build our capacity. Pray for God’s wisdom as the Int office temporarily assigns individuals from Wycliffe to TWFTW positions.
  • Here in the UK office, we praise God for a year of blessing in terms of increased income from supporters and trusts! 
  • Please pray for Pierre van Vuuren and his team as they prepare for the launch and distribution of the full Eastern Slovak Romani Bible on the weekend of 9th/10th December in Sabinov, Slovakia. The New Testament was published back in 2014, and 9 years later, the translators have completed their task!