Two extraordinary things strike me about what Jesus says in response to His detractors in Matthew 21:16 (giving Him trouble because children are loudly praising God for His arrival in Jerusalem).
He tells them, yes, He hears them; then asks: “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise’?”
The first thing is that He seems to be quoting Psalm 8:2, which says “From the lips of babes and infants you have established strength, because of your adversaries, that you might silence the enemy and the avenger.”
Though the phrase “established strength” is variously translated “founded strength,” “ordained strength,” “made clear your strength,” and even “established praise,” there is an implication there:
Jesus equates “perfecting praise” with “establishing strength.”
And the second thing is that our example is our children. The ones pointed out to Jesus had been “crying in the temple” that He was the “Son of David.”
Is there something about “crying in the temple” that perfects praise and establishes strength?
I wonder about all those times when I hear a baby cry or a toddler giggle in our assembly. An embarrassed parent usually hurries the child to the nursery or a training room while worship continues as well as it can until the “disturbance” is removed.
I wonder if we’re removing a wonderful example of praise.
Yes, it’s an annoying noise and it interrupts. But when a baby cries, she lets everything out. She hasn’t learned yet to hold back; to hide her emotions behind a mask of control and ceremony. She wails at the top of her lungs. She hollers.
The toddler who gets tickled and cannot stop laughing hasn’t learned to. He hasn’t learned that life is supposed to have serious and respectful times. He hasn’t learned that there must be a time and place and reason to be happy. He just is. (I remember an instance a decade ago when our walking-but-not-yet-talking little Matthew started giggling fitfully in a pie shop for no apparent reason and pretty soon had us and everyone else there in stitches.)
Do we miss out on perfected praise — on unrestrained strength; on relief from grief; on unstoppable joy — by holding back when we worship?