15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant
16 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’?”
Children have been a lot on my mind lately. My own, yes, but also other people’s children, and most especially the way that Jesus spoke about children. The passage that was on my mind last night was that scene from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus says to His disciples, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16 King James Version) As I thought about that Scripture this morning, I was thinking about the innocence and trust of little children, and I saw that idea supported by a similar passage in the Gospel of Matthew.
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”
Innocence, humility, trust–yes, these are characteristics of authentic faith in Jesus and love for God. But there is another quality that God is looking for in His “children”: weakness.
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.
As I looked at today’s verses from Matthew, I realized that the verse from David’s psalm is just a little different from the way Jesus spoke it to the chief priests and scribes. So I asked myself “Why did Jesus speak it differently?”
Going back the Psalms 8, we see that David is declaring the power and glory of God. In later verses, David expresses amazement that God would even pay attention to men, that God would give men dominion over His Creation. So when we look at verse 2, we see that David is praising God for establishing strength through the weakest of men–i.e. children–and that God does this to show His majesty and to silence the doubt of His enemies.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
“No flesh should glory in His presence,” said Paul. No mighty men, no armies, no worldly kings nor princes, no measure of human strength, no master of slaves, no father of many children. “No flesh should glory in His presence.” When we compare ourselves to God, as Paul put it, “the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25) And David is saying the same thing: God gave strength to the Hebrew slaves of Egypt to become the mighty nation of Israel, He gave strength to three-hundred men under Gideon’s command to rout a huge army, and He gave strength to weak little David the shepherd to overcome the giant Goliath. That is what God does: strengthening the meek and the weak, all for His glory.
So when the children in the temple called out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were calling out with a voice that ought to have been the voice of the priests. Shouldn’t the priests and scribes–the ones who knew the law and the prophets–be the ones who recognized the Son of God? Shouldn’t theirs have been the voices calling out “Save now!”? Shouldn’t they have been the ones calling for salvation through repentance and faith rather than burdening men with men’s laws?
“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
God’s perfect praise, His majesty and glory, come not from the strength of armies and law-keeping priests but from the way He empowers the weak to overcome the mighty, from the way He rescues the repentant sinner rather than the legalistic scribe. As David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart.” (Psalms 51:17) God will not despise such weakness but He will receive it and turn it to His glory. That is how praise is perfected through the mouth of babes and nursing infants: by God giving strength to the weak.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Are you aware of your own weakness? Are you feeling like a little child in the face of life’s storms and troubles? Is your faith faltering as you run the race? You can be strengthened, and you can bring glory to God even in your weakness. How? By singing His praises, by lifting up your trembling voice and crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
God will perfect His praise by raising up the powerless, by taking little children and making them a mighty nation of believers, by ordaining His strength and majesty through the meek–who, as we have read, shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5) God does not seek bold power but steadfast faith in the midst of our weakness. God does not seek mighty works but humble hearts. God does not seek people who rely on their inheritance but people who work out their salvation with fear and trembling, people who truly know they are made “a little lower than the angels” and that God is prepared to crown us with glory and honor. (Psalms 8:5)
So, little children, come to Jesus. Come meek and mild, come innocent and humble, but mostly, come to Him weak and yet full of praise. Come to Him with broken and contrite hearts, fully aware of who He is and who we are not. Come to Him and ordain His strength, perfect His praise, and bring Him all the glory. Cry “Hosanna!”–“Save now!”–and know that He alone is mighty to save.
Holy Father God, we call upon You now. We cry “Hosanna,” for we know we have not the strength to save ourselves. We cry “Hallelujah,” for You alone are worthy to be praised. We cry out our repentance, Lord, and seek Your grace and mercy. We cry out as little children to You, our Father in heaven. May our mouths do nothing but perfect Your praise and bring You glory. Amen.