12. Psalms of Praise (Psalm 8 – postscript re: verse 2)

If you were observant you may have noticed that in my talk on Psalm 8 (as shared over the last 5 posts) that I didn’t comment on verse 2 which says in the NIV, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise [or strength NIV margin] because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

My main reasons being ones of time and purpose (I do try to keep my talks short-ish and to the point) and somehow this verse appeared (on the surface) to be a slight variation from the main theme of the rest of the psalm, although this may not be true.

But then, I have to confess, that when I read some commentator’s explanation of this verse, it didn’t help that much. I read phrases like, “The Hebrew…is obscure” and “This verse is puzzling.”

I do recognize though that obviously Jesus hadn’t read these commentators, because he didn’t seem to have any problem applying this verse to his situation. He quoted it to “the chief priests and the teachers of the law” who had become “indignant” when “the children were shouting in the temple area [to Jesus], ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’” Those religious guys asked him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” I presume they didn’t think he was deaf? And he obviously wasn’t and responded “yes”, and then reminded them of Psalm 8:2. No further explanation given, he just walked off and “left them” to work it out for themselves. Maybe they then went to the kids to find out the explanation! (see Matthew 21:15-17)

No wonder Jesus suggested that to really understand the things of God, in fact to actually “enter the kingdom of God” we need to “change and become like little children”. (Matthew 18:3) But that is another sermon in itself!

I did though find a commentator who seemed to understand how this verse fitted into Psalm 8. Michael Wilcock suggests that it has something to do with this psalm’s “shameless political incorrectness”. An interesting comment for a poem written thousands of years ago! He explains, “The Bible world, like ours, was pluralistic, awash with all sorts of different beliefs: in the view of any correctly thinking person, all of them valid, but none of them actually ‘right’ in such a way as to make the rest wrong [sounds familiar].

Not so the psalmist. The LORD, the God of Israel and the Bible, is not just our Lord, he says, but the name, the only name, to be honoured in all the earth and even above the heavens. Little Israel are right and the rest are wrong.

What is more, those with opposing ideas are not to be listened to for their helpful insights, as is urged by some, but rather put to silence; and that, not by equally powerful champions, but by the simple-hearted and dependent. Such infants hold the position of strength, which when Jesus quotes these words means that the children’s praise of him on Palm Sunday is right, and that those who would tone it down are wrong.” (Michael Wilcock The Message of the Psalms Intervarsity Press 2001)

So, to let Eugene Peterson have the last word on the subject; “Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” (Psalm 8.1 The Message)

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