“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings
hast thou ordained strength. . .” Psalm 8
It’s amazing how much can be mined from a single line of words, especially when those words are considered “the Word of God.” When a book has been poured over by as many people for as many years as the Bible has, interpretations abound. What exactly did David mean by verse two anyway?
First, a musical answer—a sound bite. Anyone who has ever sat and watched a dozen kindergartners wail away on “Jesus Loves Me” knows at least something of what this verse intends. A bunch of kids can preach a momentous sermon without once consulting a concordance; all they have to do is look earnest and beller a little, and adults—me too—get blessed.
Art Linkletter made a career out a successful television show that’s been off the air for decades already, a show that can be described simply by its title—“Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Bill Cosby made millions smile by simply chatting with three-year-olds. Ask any available grandparent, and you’ll likely get a half-dozen stories recounting the shockingly insightful off-the-cuff comments of ordinary pre-schoolers.
Surely, there’s some of all of that in verse two of Psalm 8.
Christ himself more than occasionally admonished his followers that, when it comes to faith, they should all be like kids—simple, uncritical, accepting. Childlike faith has to be somewhere at the heart of David’s intent.
John Calvin thought there was something else at work here, an appreciation of the miracle of life itself as it is given us from the hand of the Creator. What he wanted us to notice is that babies, the moment they are born, are already sucking. They don’t need to be taught. Sucklings, fresh from the womb, are already doing the only thing they need to do to get what they need, another miracle—breast milk. In the broadest sense, that is providence—and that, he claimed, is simply miraculous. A nursing child is proof positive of loving God, a Creator/Father of incredible magnificence, power, and love.
Sounds right too.
But a while ago, in church, a woman stood up before we prayed, and told us that her granddaughter, her only grandchild, had been taken off the continuous IV she’d been on since being born six weeks premature at just two pounds, not much more than a handful of precarious life. What’s more, this darling child was now all the way up to three pounds, and—can you believe it?—actually taking a bottle for the first time.
The poet/king had no notion of the United States, nor any dream of a little prairie place called Iowa. He could not have imagined the church we worshipped in yesterday or clothes people wore. He would have been astounded by the child’s life; that beloved granddaughter wouldn’t be alive if we were
But when I heard that young grandma boldly announce her joy to all the rest of us, I told myself that that woman understood Psalm 8:2 in a way that’s entirely her own: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”
In our church that morning, no one understood what that verse means better than she did, I’m sure.