“The Power of Praise”

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 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 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’?” (Matthew 21:14-16)
This passage is set against the dramatic backdrop of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Through a throng of admirers chanting the Messianic one hundred and eighteen Psalm, Jesus rode the colt of a donkey down the steep and narrow descent from the Mount of Olives, crossed the Kidron Valley, and entered the city through the Sheep Gate, making His way to the Temple. It was in the Temple that He displayed His compassion for the disabled and His command over disease (healing the blind and lame), obviously fulfilling the prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-1 that spoke of the Messiah’s ministry; the same prophecy He had read concerning Himself in His hometown synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19). The scene must have been one of barely controlled chaos: the thronging of the crowd, the lame and the blind crying out for Him to heal, and above all else, the children crying out at the top of their lungs, “Hosanna (Lord Save Now!) to the Son of David (Old Testament title for the Messiah)!”

Enter stage left the God Squad-the chief priests and scribes. They knew more about the prophecies concerning the Messiah than anyone in place. The first group taught the Hebrew Scriptures, the second transcribed it. Both were considered authorities concerning the word. One would think, given their knowledge, and given Jesus’ candid conduct, that they would have initiated the intense praise that was being proclaimed all around. Instead, “they were indignant.” How could this be? As I just mentioned, they knew the Old Testament passages describing the Coming One inside and out. In this very passage, they had witnessed scripture tested and God approved Messianic miracles performed by Jesus. So how could they be so angry about “the wonderful things He did?” The answer lies buried beneath mountain of misconception about the Messiah.

No Old Testament prophet spoke more clearly about the ministry of Christ than the prophet Isaiah. The scrolls containing His prophecies were read a re-read (first by the Jews exiled in Babylon, next by the Jews who returned to the Promised Land after the seventy years of captivity) because, from the time of the exile in 586 BC until the time of Jesus, they had never been a truly free nation. They yearned for, longed after, and prayed for the hope of the Conquering King Isaiah so beautifully portrayed; a leader who would rule militarily, politically, economically and-oh yeah-spiritually. But Jewish Bible scholars and teachers had a problem. The book of Isaiah also contained prophecies describing the self same Messiah they waited upon for salvation as a suffering servant: lowly, humble, meek, lonely, rejected, mocked, abused and murdered. These two images could not be reconciled in their minds. So they decided upon a course of action that would change their history; they would simply spiritualize all that did not fit their idea of who the Messiah should be. Consequently, when Jesus came: a blue collar guy, from an across the tracks town, with backwoods followers, and the wrong means on transport (Kings rode stallions not donkeys), they completely missed Him. No, more than that-despised Him. And crucified Him.

But not the children. The children saw His miracles and sang His praises. The religious leaders wanted their blasphemous little lips silenced. They sneered, at Jesus, “Do You not hear what they say?” They wanted Him to rebuke them for their praise. They wanted Him to denounce what the children were implying-that He was The One they had been waiting for. Jesus’ response was, “have you never read (quite a jab, because they were paid readers of the scripture), ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have perfected praise’?” He quotes the eighth Psalm and the second verse, from the Septuagint (The Greek Translation of the Old Testament that was widely read in Jesus day. The Hebrew text reads a little differently…“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have ordained strength.”) To me, it is intriguing that He chose to refer to this passage because the entire verse is, in context, a silencing of the Lord’s enemies. In whole it reads, “Out of the mouth of nursing babes and infants you have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger.”  No doubt, this verse would have landed as a stinging blow to the scribes and Pharisees indignant lips. They knew so much, but they were actually enemies of Him who they spent their life studying to know. The children, on the other hand, knew very little compared to these scholars. But their parents had shared with them that Messiah was on the way, and on top of that the whole nation was rife with expectancy concerning their coming Deliver. The scriptures were not unclear as to when He would come. This was the time. And this Man fit bill: He loved people, He healed people, He spoke authentically and genuinely, He possessed a quiet strength they had never before witnessed. And for this, despite His common appearance, the children praised His uncommonness.

I am a pastor and Bible teacher. I spend a large portion of my time reading/studying scripture and explaining scripture to others (individually and corporately). As a spiritual shepherd, I get lots of calls and emails from people looking for help and guidance. If people are struggling, I point them to a particular passage of encouragement. If they are under attack, a verse that spotlights the victory we have in Christ may be suggested. I make it my aim to know the scriptures, to do them, and to teach them (Ezra 7:10), for in every page of God’s word the Messiah, the Savior of the world, is revealed (Ps. 40:7). But some days, no matter how much scripture I embrace personally, or how much I apply to others ordeals, there seems to be a lack of strength and little true victory-for me, and for them. This was the case just the other day. I left the office drained and defeated. I drove home and picked up Nathaniel James, my two and a half year old son, who moonlights as my resident errand assistant and character builder. He and I left the house for our evening stops: the post office, the bank’s after hour’s deposit, the gas station (Always Casey’s. I just can’t pass up super unleaded for the price of regular), and of course Wal-Mart. As is normal, I tuned the receiver in the Jeep to JOY FM, turned it up for Nathaniel (he likes it LOUD) and off we go, me engrossed in thought, and him…singing praises. But, before we even arrived at our first destination, an amazing wave of feelings washed over me…refreshment; then strength; next, peace. As a cup of cold water to a slumbering face, it hits me that my son is singing praises at the top of his lungs… “We fall down, we lay our crowns, at the FEEEEET OF JESUS! THE GREATNESS OF, HIS MERCY AND LOVE, AT THE FEEEET OF JESUS!” At that moment, all was right with the world. Jesus was overwhelmingly present. The concerns of the day paled in the presence of His glory. Together Nathaniel and I sang at the top of our lungs. And as we worshipped God, my strength was renewed and my enemies within were silenced. And a little child led me in praise.

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” How true. Most teens and adults spend so much time and energy trying to convince others they are something they are not that they lose the ability to spot a con or recognize a genuine article. Little children approach situations and individuals with an untainted perception. Kids can smell a fake from a hundred yards away, yet are quick to embrace a person who is the real deal. Spiritually, it is the same. I can get so overwhelmed by the circumstances that I miss the Christ. I can, like the scribes and Pharisees, desire so much for Jesus to work in a certain way or to look a given way that I miss Him entirely. And this can happen with my nose in The Holy Bible. Jesus said to the religious in His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (John 5:39).” He must be embraced by the heart and not just the head. In fact, when it comes to faith, the heart makes a convert of the head (mind). So it is, that my son may not know what passage in the Bible the scholars have dubbed the Proto Evangelicum, but he can simply accept that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and because of this his little heart is quick to make praise spring from his lips.

Praise is always the piece that leads the way to victory. In the first chapter of the book of Judges, when children asked the Lord, “Who shall be first (of the 12 tribes) to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” The Lord’s answer was, “Judah shall go up.” Judah means praise in the Hebrew language. Praise was to be what led them into battle. When they took the city of Jerusalem (Jerusalem means city of peace in the Hebrew) “they struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire.” Here are a couple of quick devotional thoughts…First, the “sword”, in the New Testament, is the word of God. The word of God is the weapon that conquers the fortified cities in our life and unlocks peace. Second, the word is also the thing that sets a life, or a “city on fire” (Judges 1:8). The prophet Jeremiah said “His word burns in my heart like a fire. It is like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it (Jer. 20:9)!” The word “will not return…void (Is. 55:11)!” Dig into it! It will light up your life and you will light up your environment. But what must first lead us into victory is praise!

Oh that that we would allow the Lord to “put a new song in (our) mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD (Ps. 40:3).”  How liberating to know that praise can march in and snatch any situation from the jaws of despair…“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God (Ps. 43:5).” But to praise is a choice. As the scribes and Pharisees, we can choose to view Jesus in the common clothes of our every day circumstance; bemoaning that He does not intervene in the way we had hoped or becoming indignant about the way He does or does not show Himself. Or, as the children, we can praise Him for who He is and what He does, unmask uncommon power in the midst of very common circumstances, and unleash the perfecting power of unbridled praise in our lives. We can choose to let silence jail our joy, or, as Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16), we can let praise make the chains fall from our darkest dungeon.

Below is a picture that someone sent me of some of the kids at church after a Sunday morning worship service. It was the inspiration for this little article. How I would love to feel towards the Lord they way they look.

God Bless,

Pastor Mike

Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord

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