Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ordained Strength, Perfected Praise

O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
(Psalm 8:2)

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful thing that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?” (Matthew 21:14-16)
There might seem to be a contradiction here: Is it “ordained strength” or “perfected praise?” The answer is: both. Let’s examine each and then see how they come together.

Ordained Strength

The Hebrew word for “ordained” means to set, appoint, establish or found. The word for “strength” can refer to boldness, might, power, strength, security, majesty, and praise. The Septuagint (early Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, designated by LXX) translates it using ainos, the Greek word for praise.

This psalm declares that the name of the LORD is great in all the earth, and that His glory is established above the heavens. But what is more, God establishes His strength even in the utterances of infants and toddlers (mothers nursed their children longer in those days), and thereby stills the voices of those who hate Him and carry a grudge against Him.

Perfected Praise

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “perfected” means to be thoroughly complete, leaving nothing lacking. The word for “praise,” ainos, literally refers to a tale or narrative, but came to be used in the New Testament to extol the Lord. You might say that praise is the tale of His goodness, or the narrative of His greatness. The greatness of the Lord is demonstrated in that even small children declare His name fully and freely. That is what happened in Matthew’s account.

Perfected Praise IS Ordained Strength

Jesus was in the temple. First, He drove out the money changers, saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13). That upset some people (mainly, the money changers). He probably upset more people when He healed the blind and the lame — for these were not allowed into the sanctuary, but were restricted to the outer court (v. 14). Yet these were the very ones Jesus had chosen to minister to.

But the thing that really set off the ire of the chief priests and scribes was what happened next. There were children in the temple area, who, seeing the miracles Jesus performed, recognized their significance and began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

Now, children had no standing in the realms of the religious — and just what were they doing in the temple anyway? To make things worse, now they were raising a ruckus, crying out with Hosannas! to Jesus — and Jesus did nothing to stop them, but gladly received their praise. The indignant officials went to Jesus: “Do You hear these children — what they’re saying?” Imagine them impatiently waiting with a “Well, are you just going to stand there?” look on their faces.

What Jesus did next stunned them. For He not only affirmed the praise offered up by the children, He even backed it up with Scripture:
Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?”
You see, the children had readily received what should have been apparent to all who were around. Their young eyes had perceived Messiah in their midst, and they openly declared His praise. But the chief priests and scribes had already shut their hearts to Jesus, and now the praises of the children had shut their mouths — they had nothing else to say.

Praise is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare (make no mistake, this warfare is going on all around us all the time). The more thorough our praise, the greater our strength. The enemy cannot stand to be around when the name of Jesus is exalted. The accuser cannot accuse when we are praising God for His mercy and pouring out our thanks to Him. Simple, child-like worship and adoration stills the God-haters and silences the grudge-holders, for thorough, perfected praise is the foundation of strength.