The quote “out of the mouth of babes You have perfected praise” comes from Matthew 21:16 in the Bible. This verse refers to an incident where Jesus was in the temple in Jerusalem and children were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!”. The chief priests and scribes were indignant and asked Jesus if he heard what the children were saying. Jesus replied by quoting Psalm 8:2 – “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.”
So what does this mean? Here are a few key points:
- Jesus was affirming that the praise of children is pleasing to God. Their simple, sincere faith is seen as “perfect praise”.
- God can use the weak things of this world to accomplish His purposes. The voices of children praising Jesus confounded the chief priests who opposed Him.
- Children can have insight into spiritual truth. Their humility and lack of guile allows them to recognize Jesus as the Messiah in a way the educated religious leaders could not.
- Children’s praise fulfills the prophecy in Psalm 8:2. God ordained praise from the mouths of infants and children to silence the enemy.
The incident in the temple is significant because Jesus strongly affirmed the value of children in God’s kingdom. He rebuked those who would silence their praise. He upheld their worship as spiritually insightful and pleasing to God.
Jesus’ response elevates the role of children in the purposes of God. He demonstrated that God accepts sincere praise from anyone, no matter their age or status. The voices of children carry power through their simple, honest proclamation of the truth.
The scribes and Pharisees esteemed their theological education and social position. But Jesus praises the children, who esteemed Him. This incident is a reminder that intellectual pride can blind people to the truth. Childlike faith is held up as a model for all believers.
Some key lessons we can take from this verse:
- God values sincere, heartfelt praise, even from the youngest child.
- Humble, childlike faith pleases God.
- God can use the simple proclamation of truth from anyone to accomplish His plans.
- The voices of children have significance and meaning in God’s kingdom.
- Intellectual pride can prevent us from seeing and accepting spiritual truth.
So in summary, this verse elevates the importance of children in God’s eyes. Their praise is not insignificant but seen as perfect praise. This incident also warned against despising or silencing children and affirmed their role in the purposes of God. The prideful attitudes of the religious leaders were rebuked. And simple, sincere faith was upheld as the example for all believers to follow.
1. The Setting of the “Out of the Mouth of Babes” Quote
To fully understand what Jesus meant, it’s helpful to look at the full context and setting where this statement was made:
- Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy about the Messiah (Matthew 21:1-11). Many people spread cloaks and palm branches on the road, welcoming Him.
- Jesus went into the temple and drove out those buying and selling animals for sacrifice, overturning tables of money changers. He declared “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:12-13).
- Blind and lame people came to Jesus at the temple and He healed them (Matthew 21:14).
- Children were present, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15). “Hosanna” means “save now”. The people were recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah from the line of David.
- The chief priests and scribes became indignant about the children’s shouting. They asked Jesus to rebuke them (Matthew 21:15).
- But Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2, affirming the praises of the children (Matthew 21:16).
So this incident happened right after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The children were recognizing His identity and messianic role, just as the crowds had done when spreading branches before Him. Their simple praise stands in contrast to the rejection of the religious leaders.
2. Who Were These Children?
The Greek word used in Matthew 21:15 for these children is “paidion”. This refers to young children rather than infants. Some key insights about the children include:
- They were old enough to recognize Jesus as the “Son of David”, a messianic title.
- They had heard the crowds praising Jesus with palm branches and shouting “Hosanna”.
- Their shouting shows they were old enough to publicly proclaim their praise.
- They were male children rather than infants, as girls and female mothers stayed away from the temple complex.
- They were likely around 5-12 years old based on cultural practices of the time.
- As Jews visiting the temple, they would have had some scriptural training to recognize Jesus’ role as the promised Messiah.
So these were children old enough to understand Jesus’ identity and declare it openly. Their young age and lack of position did not disqualify their praise. Rather, Jesus upheld their worship as exemplary.
3. Jesus Quoted Psalm 8:2 in Reference to the Children
Psalm 8 is a reflection on God’s majesty and His choice to appoint humans as rulers over the earth. The verse quoted by Jesus states:
From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)
By quoting this, Jesus aligned the children’s praise with the praise described in Psalm 8. Here are some key parallels:
- Psalm 8 refers to praise from the mouths of “children” and “infants”. Jesus applied it to the children shouting in the temple.
- The psalm says their praise silences the “enemy” and “avenger”. Jesus implied the indignant religious leaders were enemies of their praise.
- Psalm 8 depicts their praise “called forth” by God. Jesus affirmed the same purpose for the children’s shouts of “Hosanna”.
- The psalm shows God ordaining such praise for His divine purposes. Jesus upheld the sacred role of the children’s praise.
Jesus made a strong connection between Psalm 8:2 and the children worshipping Him. His application of the psalm affirms God’s purpose in their sincere declarations of praise.
4. The Quote Applied More Broadly Than Just These Children
While Jesus directly applied “out of the mouth of babes” to the children shouting in the temple, His statement has a broader application as well. Scripture records other examples of God being praised by children:
- Psalm 148:12 exhorts both young and old to praise the name of the Lord.
- The nursing infants in Luke 18:15-17 that Jesus blessed.
- Jesus upheld children as models for the kind of faith adults should have (Luke 18:17).
- King David as a youth slaying Goliath for the glory of God (1 Samuel 17).
So while the quote had an immediate context, Jesus’ affirmation of children’s praise applies more broadly. Throughout Scripture, God accomplishes His purposes through young people who sincerely trust in Him.
5. Application: How Should We View Children?
This passage leads to several applications for how the Church should view and engage with children:
- Value their praise: Children’s worship, even simple songs of praise, should be encouraged as pleasing to God.
- Receive their insight: Children can sometimes perceive spiritual truth more readily than adults. Their perspectives should be valued.
- Include their voices: Children should not be excluded from worshipping with adults. Intergenerational worship is ideal.
- Protect and listen: Churches should be safe places for children and their voices heard. Their concerns should be taken seriously.
- Nurture their faith: Children are capable of understanding deep spiritual truth by God’s grace. Teaching should not underestimate their potential.
Jesus’ actions in this passage provide a model for elevating and empowering children rather than silencing them. Their openness to the Gospel represents the kind of faith all believers should emulate (Matthew 18:3).
6. The Priority of Childlike Faith
This passage also teaches us that childlike faith pleases God. The qualities of children that were exemplified include:
- A lack of guile and open honesty.
- Humility rather than pride.
- Simple trust without sophistication.
- Unashamed expression of praise to Jesus.
- Recognizing Jesus’ true identity as Messiah.
These qualities stand in contrast with the skepticism and pride of the religious leaders. A childlike faith models for us the kind of sincere, humble trust that should characterize all believers.
Other verses also highlight childlike faith:
- “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17)
- “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
- “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)
These verses commend childlike faith as exemplary for all. A childlike spiritual maturity is not a weakness but a strength, evidenced by the children’s sincere worship in the temple.
7. The Rebuke of the Chief Priests and Scribes
This incident contains a stark contrast between the simple, humble faith of the children and the skepticism of the religious elites:
- The chief priests and scribes valued their education, social status and ritual observances.
- They were indignant and wanted to silence the radical declarations of praise from the children.
- They rejected Jesus’ authority to receive worship, despite His signs and public acclaim.
- Their sophisticated theology blinded them to the simple manifestation of truth before their eyes.
Jesus’ strong affirmation of the children’s praise served as an implicit rebuke of the religious leaders’ hard-heartedness. This incident revealed their pride, stubbornness and spiritual blindness.
This passage serves as a warning against prideful “biblical expertise” that can prevent us from recognizing Jesus. Childlike humility acknowledges spiritual truth that sophisticated theology may miss.
8. Conclusion: The Priority of Childlike Praise
In summary, Jesus’ quote about “out of the mouth of babes” elevated the importance of children’s sincere praise and faith. Their young age does not disqualify their voices from bringing glory to God.
Rather than silencing their praise, Jesus upheld the worship of children as exemplary for all believers. Their childlike humility and sincerity pleased God even as it confounded the arrogant religious leaders.
All of us, whether young or old, should emulate the open, trusting and unashamed praise of the children. We should value childlike faith over sophisticated theology devoid of spiritual sensitivity.
This passage offers both a promise and a warning. The promise: God works powerfully through the small and weak who humbly trust in Him. The warning: intellectual pride blinds us to perceiving spiritual truth.
May we recapture childlike earnestness, simplicity and wonder in relating to God. And may the sincere praise from the lips of children remind us of what honoring Christ requires – humble, exuberant trust united with pure adoration.