“The heavens announce His righteousness — for God, He is the judge! Selah!”
As the courtroom scene develops, the heavens now find themselves in a double roll. Not only are they contending with the people of God as a witness to man’s wickedness, but now they stand as a kind of bailiff, announcing to the courtroom the presence of the divine Judge. You can almost envision the heavens announcing, “All Rise! The Righteous Lord Yahweh presiding!”
God is the judge over all mankind and he holds this position for many reasons. He is a creator, sovereign, and author of the Covenant. Yet, only one reason is uttered in this verse — He is righteous. In fact, not only is God righteous, but he is the very definition of righteousness. He is the standard by which righteousness can be measured. There is an old hymn that begins with the words, “Whatever my God ordains is right…,” and indeed, no truer statement could be uttered.
And so, with witnesses and a bailiff, God begins his pronouncement, one that follows a simple, but all too familiar theme: God’s faithfulness in spite of man’s unfaithfulness. And, what ought to cause our knees to tremble, is the great truth that we (the church) are no less guilty of condemnation than was ancient Israel. Woe to we poor sinners.
As a note, “selah” is one of those phrases that many scholars debate as to its meaning. Most seem to argue that it is a liturgical term, but there is little consensus as to exactly what that term means or does. Some suggest it is a break in the words where instruments play, some suggest a kind of musical bridge begins there, others suggest that it is a kind of crescendo in the musical tune, and the speculations go on. What we do know is that it is part of the Biblical text and should recognize it as such. Further, it can be argued that it is some sort of a break in thought. In any case, as it is part of the Biblically inspired text preserved for us by the Holy Spirit, we ought to preserve such words in the text where they present themselves. Beyond that, we can let the folks with too much time on their hands speculate until the cows come home.