Selah! Pause and Think on That


By Alecia Swoope

Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I’m consecrating myself for their sakes so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.” —John‬ ‭17‬:‭13‬–‭19‬ ‭MSV

Have you ever played what’s known as the “quiet game”? I remember times as a teenager when I babysat small children and often played this game, which challenged them to be quiet and still for as long as possible. Whoever was able to stay quiet the longest won the game. As you can imagine, the game never lasted very long! In this modern age in which we live, if we are honest, silence and stillness can be a challenge, even for us adults. There’s always something demanding our attention and we often struggle to say no, or wait. Our world has normalized constant movement and noise. In a sense, we have normalized distraction. While movement and sound have its place, so does stillness.

We recently entered the spring season. It’s a time of production and activity. This is the season we commemorate the greatest action that has and will ever take place: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection Sunday is upon us and many of us are as busy as ever. We are planning family activities, church events, spring break, etc.

We are currently in Holy Week, a time to commemorate and celebrate the days leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection. Many have speculated what Jesus may have been thinking and feeling during those days. While we see some of that expressed through Scripture, what about what Scripture doesn’t say? Scripture doesn’t reveal much about the day before Passover (known as the Last Supper). The Bible records little to no activity this day. On this day we sense stillness and hear silence. Jesus could have been spending time with his loved ones. He could have stolen away and spent some time in the secret place in prayer. He could’ve spent time teaching, as was common. But the reality is, we just don’t know. There are several spiritual disciplines that lend themselves to a pause: silence, solitude, and prayer—to name a few. As believers in Jesus, we are called to walk in his footsteps. Surely Jesus’s earthly ministry was active and teeming, but it was also marked by times of pause or, as David so eloquently states, times of selah (pause and think on that).

John 17 records Jesus’ longest, continuous prayer in Scripture. It’s in this passage that Jesus prays for himself related to his mission, his eleven chosen disciples, and then, for all others who would come to believe in him by way of the witness of his disciples (that’s you and me). This passage of Scripture is the closest record that we have to the intimate thoughts of Jesus prior to completing his earthly mission. It’s famous for its focus on unity of believers. Unity which, according to John 17:21, proves to the unbeliever (the world) that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, sent by God. However, as we consider the silence that speaks through Scripture the day before Passover, I believe God is calling us to an element of prayer and Communion that can be hard: listening.

In John 17:17–19 Jesus is asking the Father to sanctify his disciples by his word for the sake of their mission. To receive the word, we must pause to listen. Yes, we read Scripture, but it should also read us. How that word reads us are in moments of selah: where we suspend all noise, including the noise we tend to produce. This suspension creates space to listen to heaven’s instructions, and the witness of the Holy Spirit (whose role is to remind us of the words of Jesus). The reality is that true listening is not void of action. It’s a pause to receive and process for the purpose of effective action. Most Hebrew or Greek words that define hearing, will also mean to respond, or to be obedient. There is a verse of Scripture that states that wisdom is proven by her deeds, well so is listening. When you listen and understand, the proof is action. As we consider the great sacrifice of Christ, let’s pause to listen. Our greatest service to Christ our King is our obedience. We can’t obey what we don’t understand, and we can’t understand what we can’t hear. Listening well is directly connected to our ability to complete our kingdom assignments.


  • What noise exists in your life (thoughts, feelings, etc.) that drowns out the voice of God? Implement one practice this week working toward eliminating one of those noises.
  • How do you respond when faced with extended periods of silence?
  • What is the greatest barrier you face in being still?
  • What was the last thing you heard God say to you personally? What are you currently doing with that information?
  • How have you seen your life enhanced by hearing God clearly?


Father, thank you for the sacrificial gift of Jesus. Thank you for the model he provides both in action and in stillness. Lord, teach me how to listen well. May my actions simply be an expression of your instruction, your words, and thus your Spirit. With the help of your Spirit I will accomplish each mission you have established for me. May I listen and follow your blueprints thoughtfully and effectively. Your sacrifice on the cross empowers me to live victoriously! May I ever honor you with my life and times—including in times of stillness. Selah. Amen.

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