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OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES

OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES

O LORD, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. 
 Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
   to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established; 
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
   and crowned them with glory and honor. 
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet…

Psalm 8:1-6

Would you please pray for our country?  I ask you because many pundits and commentators say we are at a time much like our nation faced immediately preceding the Civil War.   We are living in tumultuous and critical days calling for God’s people to pray.  We see violence, hatred, and division that can only be described by what the apostle Paul calls “the mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). 

Yet, when I pray I am often tempted to feel that my prayers are powerless and will not make a difference.  In the face of such big world events, I can feel so small and insignificant.  Such feelings lead me to today’s scripture in which the psalmist David is awestruck by the power entrusted to God’s people to pray. 

In this lyrical creation psalm, David expresses wonder at the grandeur of God and His starry skies.  But David expresses far greater wonder at God’s glory revealed in entrusting His people with prayer.  David views that far greater than the glory of 170 billion galaxies spread over 45.7 billion light-years, is the glory of human beings made “a little lower than God”.  It is to such creatures made in His image that God gives “dominion” over the works of His hands.  

Using powerful poetic imagery, David says that it is through prayer God gives power to “to silence the enemy and the avenger.”  I have sometimes seen preachers smile at the noise of children acting up during worship, approvingly passing it off as: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants…”  But a closer reading of David’s words reveals David having something more wondrous in mind than the sounds coming out of little children.  

Old Testament theologian Bruce Waltke unravels the meaning of David’s poetic words, “babes and infants”.   Waltke notes that in every joint occurrence of these two words in the Old Testament, they refer: “to the helpless offspring of a people threatened with annihilation by a ruthless foe…(1 Samuel 15:3; 22:19; Jeremiah 44:7; Lamentations 1:16; 4:4; Joel 2:16”).  Waltke thus describes “babes and infants” as an “apt metaphor for ancient Israel who, trapped as a small and insignificant state between the giant superpowers of Egypt and Mesopotamia, found strength in their dependence upon God.”  (Bruce Waltke, James Houston, The Psalms As Christian Worship).  By the praise and prayer out of the mouths of the small and insignificant, God appoints the defeat of His enemy.

Martin Luther, who frequently devoted hours to prayer, says that by “ ’infants’, in this passage, David does not mean young children…but plain, simple, unsophisticated people, who are like children in that thy set aside all reason, grasp and accept the Word with simple faith” (Luther’s Works; 12:108).

John Calvin, in his commentary on this psalm, can add to our understanding of the power of prayer God entrusts to His people:

“The faithful prayer and praise of God’s people – not necessarily their eloquence – commences the work of slaying the foe.  What majesty accrues to God when he brings onto the field of battle the poor in spirit against the arrogant hordes of wickedness in order to slay their intolerable pride in the dust.” 

(John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms)

We are facing difficult times, so let us come to our Father like little children, and, through prayer, defeat the Enemy!

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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