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14 May 2016

Psalm 8: Reverence in the Mouths of Babes

Psalm 8:2 reads:

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

The Lord himself quoted this verse following the cleansing of the temple. The cleansing of the temple is a story that I have read many times, and studied previously, but as happens so often when studying scripture, today I noticed more than I had in the past.

Today, I realized that the violent cleansing was only half of the story, and the second half is just as fascinating as the first. Once the temple was emptied of the marketplace, He began to use it for its intended purpose: as a place of healing and learning.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 
-Matthew 21:14

I've been pondering reverence - real reverence, not just the stuff that's passed off as reverence: folding our arms and bowing our heads is not reverence. It's just a particular way to hold our body, and it has bothered me for a long time now that we pass this posture off as reverence. It also bothered me that I couldn't say what reverence is, only what it isn't. In the process of discussing some of the writings of the educator Charlotte Mason, the women on Ambleside Online helped me to put words both to what real reverence is -- and also to why it's important to discipline our bodies when we are trying to achieve reverence.

Reverence isn't a thing we do with our bodies; it's a thing we do with our hearts. It's an internal posture that we take when we approach Deity, an awareness of His Grandness, and admiration for His Majesty. It's a feeling that you come away with when you have touched the Divine, but it is not the form, the posture we shape our bodies into. It's not reverent to bow our heads and close our eyes. That's the form. What we're doing there is creating opportunity for substance. Reverence is the substance. It's the feeling, which is much harder to communicate to a room full of wiggly children. However. The while form is not reverence, form is important, too. Miss Mason said:

...it is just as true to say that the form gives birth to the feeling as that the feeling should give birth to the form.

The form - the way we hold our bodies while we approach God - is not trivial because it's a method of disciplining our bodies in preparation for actually communing with Him. And it's critical that we discipline ourselves because He speaks in a voice that is still and small. Which is to say that it's not always easy to hear. If we are bouncing around, distracted by our surroundings, then we are far more likely to miss His messages to us. Hence the bowed head and closed eyes - that cuts off a great deal of sensual input. Folding our arms disciplines much of our body to stillness, and reduces distraction from the things we might touch or be touched by. Kneeling is a submissive posture, and may be useful, though personally, I find that it puts my feet to sleep and quickly makes them tingle painfully, and becomes more of a distraction than a help, so I seldom do it: it doesn't help me reach the quiet place necessary to commune with God.

What Christ did with the cleansing of the temple was a lot like the forms we do for prayer: He reduced the distraction, and removed that which defiled the holy sanctuary. He created a space where, free of the distracting market atmosphere, people were ready to exercise faith, be healed, and be taught. That's the form, the outward parts. And when the people and the place were ready, He began to do His work. The people came to Him, He taught the crowds of people anxious to hear, and He healed them. That's the substance, the thing that impacts the inward parts. He made a space where they could commune. And they praised Him - shouted His praises, actually. Which (predictably) was irritating to the chief priests and scribes.

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased. And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say?
-Matthew 21:15-16

This is the final week of the Savior's life; the die is cast and their decisions are made, but this is not their opportunity. This time, the Lord put them to silence with scripture: He referenced the 8th Psalm.

And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? 
-Matthew 21:16

I think it's likely that they would have recognized the reference, and know the second half, the part that the Lord didn't make explicit:

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
-Psalm 8:2

1 comment:

Anne Chovies said...

Rev’rence is more than just quietly sitting: It’s thinking of Father above, A feeling I get when I think of his blessings. I’m rev’rent, for rev’rence is love. When I’m rev’rent, it shows in my words and my deeds. The pathway to follow is clear. And when I am rev’rent, I know in my heart Heav’nly Father and Jesus are near. (#31, Children's Songbook) I like this one today; it's all about creating a place in our lives and heart where the Spirit of the Lord feels welcome and so He comes in.


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