Psalm 140

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
    preserve me from violent men,
who plan evil things in their heart
    and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,
    and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah

Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    preserve me from violent men,
    who have planned to trip up my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
    and with cords they have spread a net;
    beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah

I say to the Lord, You are my God;
    give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!
O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation,
    you have covered my head in the day of battle.
Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
    do not further their[b] evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah

As for the head of those who surround me,
    let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall upon them!
    Let them be cast into fire,
    into miry pits, no more to rise!
11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land;
    let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
    and will execute justice for the needy.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
    the upright shall dwell in your presence.

The word selah is found 71 times at the end of verses in the Psalms, including three times in Psalm 140. The meaning of this Hebrew word remains unclear, but some scholars believe it gives direction to musicians to pause, to crescendo, or to provide a musical interlude. In today’s psalm, a song penned by David, this pause happens after verses 1, 2, and 3 with the plea for deliverance from the ugly words of evil men, after verses 4 and 5 with the prayer for protection from violent men, and after verses 6, 7, and 8 that declare God hears, saves, and protects His people.

In verse 7, David declares that the Lord “covered my head in the day of battle,” and then in verse 9, he pleads with God to act justly and reign down fire upon the heads of his enemies. What a contrast! Our holy and loving God is angry when His people are abused and oppressed, and in His perfect timing, He will carry out justice.

And that’s the key — He. Will. Carry. Out. Justice.

David acknowledges that “the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy” (v. 12). David doesn’t rush to delivery justice on his own, but he waits and trusts God. And in the waiting, he gives thanks to God that the upright shall dwell in His presence (v. 13).

We’re living in a time when the cries for justice are loud. People are crying out for rescue from hurtful words and physical violence, which is no different than the reality David faced in Israel. We all need to selah, to pause in God’s presence to weigh whether we’re struggling to trust God and His perfect timing in the execution of justice. May we selah to write our own psalms of prayer and praise to God in the midst of the ugliness we face today.