Out of the mouth of infants

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they 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 infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?” (Mt 21:15)

Reading through the gospel of Matthew, I have been struck again by the emphasis Jesus put on children.

At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;" (Mt 11:25)

As adults we can often major on our responsibility to teach the children, to impart to them our wisdom, our experience, our knowledge. This is right and proper, we should train them in the way that they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. But are we as open when it comes to receiving from our children? Jesus said there would be things revealed to the children that would not be revealed to the wise and learned. The implication is that if we only instruct our children, but do not listen to them we are missing part of the picture. Sometimes, like old Eli, it takes a while for this penny to drop... they just may have caught something from God that we have not!

We had a recent example in our congregation of a family who went to Estonia on a mission trip. Before their journey their young son had a dream from God with specific details about a man they would meet and how they would meet him. They did indeed have their most significant encounter with a man who matched all the details from that dream. God didn't give the dream to the dad, or to the mum, but to one of their children.

Jesus said something else quite remarkable, and quite puzzling about children:

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Mt 18:10)

Now I don't pretend to understand the full significance of this, but I do have a few ideas. Angels are heaven's messengers, dispatched from God to minister and bring messages to those on earth. When Jacob had his dream he saw them both descending and ascending. Perhaps the messages, like the messengers go both ways. Since the word angel and messenger are one and the same, this is certainly the implication in this verse: their messengers always see the face of the Father. And if their messengers always get through then so must their messages - their prayers.

I was talking to a friend last night. He shared with me that he had be totally healed of a cold for the first time. Until then his experience had always been, go to the ministry line with a streaming nose, get touched powerfully by God, but still go back with a streaming nose. This time was different, and do you know who prayed? His daughter - "Please Jesus make daddy's cold all better. Amen." That was it! But that was all that was needed, because the message got through!

In our own household we have spotted a pattern. The nights when Andrew sleeps the best, are the nights when we asked Michael to pray for him! God delights to answer the prayers of children! I tell you, I'm not wasting my son's prayers on just "Help me sleep nicely" any more. I'm getting him to pray for all kinds of things now!

Jesus himself said we had a lot to lean from our children:

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 18:2-4)

We should never exclude them from what Jesus is doing in his church, for they are just as significant, if not more so, than the adults:

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19:14)

Is it time we raised our expectation of what God is doing in our children? I think so. Is it time to include them in our prayers and our ministry? I think so. After all what do the scriptures say: that your sons and your daughters will prophesy, or that they will play with colouring books?


AmeriKan said...

Chris...very reflective post...would that all children had such an insightful father to look to.

I loved this post with its pure simplicity. In our church circles, we separate the children from the adults. When I was a child we had Sunday school but then later the children joined the adults in the "big" service. Why did we ever think the children needed to be separated from the corporate service? Were we too high minded and lofty or maybe we are just that boring.(?!) Perhaps, this is an indictment against our pompous spiritual existence.

This reminds me of a little book entitled, Visions of Heaven by H.A. Baker. The book is the true story of orphan boys in China who have been taken in by American missionaries. The boys were taught the Three "Rs"...reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmatic and of course the Bible. What ensued in the lives of these young boys was short of phenomenal. Their humble little spirits and hunger for God brought the divine into their midst in a miraculous way. I can weep just thinking of what God did and will do in the "simplist" of hearts and minds. They had all of heaven without us (the big people) to mess it up.

Chris HH said...

AmeriKan, thank you for your kind comments, here and elsewhere.

Just to say, I don't have a problem with separating the children, sometimes that is entirely appropriate, but this should never involve excluding the children.

Their ministry times should be to better enable them to engage with God and all that he is doing with the church, not just to give them something to do and keep them out of the way.

When we pray for the sick, they should be there laying on hands. When we take an offering, they should have the opportunity to give. When the church is called to pray on a certain matter, the children should pray too. But I don't think they have to sit through all the sermons... there are more appropriate ways to engage them and help them to learn.

AmeriKan said...

Chris, I totally concur. It's just in our circles, we have completely excluded the children from the adults. They need things on a child's level but I regret what they may have missed in the broader scheme.

AmeriKan said...

This is just a P.S. :-)
When I was a child in a denominational church, the children were always in the corporate adult worship service. Granted, I did get bored with the boring sermons...today's spirit-filled sermons might be more palatable. One thing I did learn was how to sit still in one place, listen more when I didn't want to, and respect one solitary hour of worship. I didn't need to be constantly "entertained," like some wee ones think today. It was in those same "boring" services that I first experienced the powerful presence of God in my life at the age of sixteen.

The flip side of this is that I am thankful in many respects that my own children were able to experience the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in their own children's services with praying in tongues and praying for their friends' healing and salvation.

Matthew said...

All very interesting and useful - Ruth and I are writing a magazine article on children in church at the moment (well we're thinking about writing it, haven't actually put pen to paper yet!).

A little anecdote in response to amerikan's comment on kids and "charismatic" sermons: this past Sunday we had our apostle Keri Jones ministering the Word and we invited all the children from about 7 to stay in and listen. It was a long sermon (just over an hour) but they listened with understanding and enjoyment all the way through (my son was the youngest there).

Later in the afternoon, my daughter (8) retold the whole message to my wife who had been with the younger children and had not heard the sermon. My daughter's recall was better than any adult I've heard try to sum up a message. We are certainly going to be doing this more often!