Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Infants

The following is one of the lessons for the first week of Lent from the small group study we are doing at our church entitled Christ in the Psalms. You can purchase the entire study for 99 cents on at this link.

Read Matthew 21:12-17

            It would be difficult to overstate just how important the temple was in first century Judaism; both practically and symbolically. It was the place of sacrifice, forgiveness, a house of prayer, the central place of worship for every faithful Jew, and a symbol of the presence of God with his people. But it wasn’t just a religious building. It was also connected to Israel’s kings, a place tied to God anointed authority. Its history went all the way back to the great King David who had first asked if he could build a house for God. The first temple was built by David’s son, King Solomon. The temple in which Jesus stood in this passage was built by King Herod the Great as a symbol of his power.
            So when Jesus, a peasant from Galilee, enters the temple and starts turning over tables and driving people out, the religious leaders naturally want to know who he thinks he is and why he has the authority to behave this way. Likewise, when the children in the temple start shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” thereby speaking of Jesus as a messianic deliverer in the line of King David, the chief priests and scribes become indignant and ask Jesus if they hear what the children are saying. The implication is that if Jesus had heard the words of these children, he would silence them immediately to prevent them from making such a blasphemous claim about him.
            Instead, Jesus quotes Psalm 8:3.[1] The remarkable thing about this is that Psalm 8 was addressed to God. The praise from the mouths of infants and babies was to be for Yahweh alone and Jesus now says it is appropriate for that same praise to be directed toward him. Rather than rebuking the children for hailing him as the Davidic messiah, Jesus has actually upped the ante. He has essentially said that it is not only right for them to call him “Son of David” but even to praise him as they would praise God. Just as the Psalmist marveled at the wonders of the heavens and praised God for it, these children have seen the wonderful things that Jesus has done (v.14-15) and sing his praises for it.

[1] You might have noticed that what Jesus quotes is a little different than what you read yesterday. Most translations of Ps 8:3 say that God established “strength” out of the mouths of babies and infants whereas Jesus says “you have prepared praise.” This is because most translations of the Psalm follow the Hebrew version of the Psalm whereas Jesus’ quote in Matthew comes from the LXX (Septuagint), the Greek version of the Old Testament. Since the NT authors wrote in Greek rather than Hebrew, it was very common for them to quote from the LXX rather than the Hebrew text. 

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