Praise that silences

Praise that silences

Sometimes the Bible surprises you by throwing in a curious verse that doesn’t seem to belong there.

Take Psalm 8 for example. On one level, the theme of the psalm is very straightforward. It is a song of praise to God for his glory seen in creation. David, who wrote the psalm, begins by praising God and considering the works of his hands in the sky at night. He then moves to wonder at God’s care for humanity, giving them dignity and honour, and allowing them to rule over the creation that this awesome God has made.

So far, so clear. But into the mix comes verse 2:

“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

Psalm 8:2

What exactly is that verse doing there? The start seems to fit: since it’s a psalm of praise to God for his glory and majesty, it seems right that this praise also comes from children and infants. But how does this praise ‘establish a stronghold’ and ‘silence the foe’? And why is it specifically the praise of children that does this?

David is a skilled writer and poet, and he knew what he was doing when he wrote the psalm. Given this, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can assume that this verse both belongs here and fits in with theme of the rest of the psalm. It is the praise of children and infants for the glory of God in creation that David has in mind. But how does this praise silence foes?

As David writes this psalm, he has in mind those who are foes for God’s people and enemies of God himself. “LORD, our Lord,” David begins, “how majestic is your name in all the earth!” It is God’s name and God’s majesty that is the subject of the song. So it is God’s enemies that are silenced by the praise of children.

We don’t know precisely who these enemies are, but we can imagine what they were saying. “There is no God, nobody in charge of the universe, no ruler over the world and over my life.” “Sure, the world around us, and the sky above, is beautiful but I don’t believe that there is a creator who made it all.”

David counters these claims by praising God for creation. But he points at children as the best example of praise. Why? Because children look at the world and work out that somebody made it. A child sees creation and assumes a creator. They don’t mask their thoughts by intellectual arguments or high-minded philosophy. They see a beautiful sky and believe that somebody made it beautiful.

Children are not perfect (and anyone who thinks so has clearly never met a child!) The stain of Adam’s sin runs through us all, and children are as capable of being sinful and selfish as the rest of us. But they are also capable of being clear and straightforward in their thinking. They see a wonderful creation and praise God for what he has made. Their praise builds a stronghold against God’s enemies, a defence against the attacks of those who doubt him. Kids’ praise shuts the mouths of grand thinkers who argue against God’s existence. The praise of children is praise that silences.

This means we need to value the praise of small children, and learn from them. The witness and praise of a little kid is a powerful lesson for us ‘older’ Christians; sometimes a child has more wisdom than the wise. Indeed, Jesus affirms and encourages the praise of children. His disciples were shooing them away from Christ, assuming that Jesus was far too busy and far too important for little kids to bother him. Jesus shatters their assumptions by saying:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Mark 10:14,15

If we are to be true disciples of Jesus, we need to be like little children. We must allow their praise of God to shut our mouths where we argue Jesus out of our lives, and open them again in praise and thanksgiving.