Majesty and Glory
This classic anthem is so rich in Scripture and imagery that it’s a disservice to treat it with a broad brush, so let’s focus in on a detail, and one which has implications for our times.
The lyrics say that little children praise God perfectly, and the psalm from which it is drawn (Ps. 8) puts it, “From the lips of infants and children You have ordained praise,” or “established a stronghold against Your enemies,” or “founded strength,” as different versions put it. This verse has never been interpreted literally, by either Jewish or Christian scholars, but has been taken to mean that out of weakness God ordains strength, and that is to His glory.
Christ exhibited that principle in His own life. He could have come to earth in the splendor and majesty of His exalted position in Heaven, but He came in humility and total vulnerability as a helpless infant. And He died, submitting Himself to the power of evil and cruel men, crucified in weakness (2 Cor. 13:4), but from that weakness and humility came the awesome power for salvation to all who will believe. Out of that helplessness and weakness of both the infant Jesus and crucified Christ, came the tremendous praise of Heaven and from the host of the redeemed on the earth.
This is why we, too, can give Him such praise in our own weakness. He has paved the way for us, not only by demonstrating this truth, but by His Scriptures proclaiming it in so many ways. His Word encourages us not to be ashamed of our weaknesses, but use them as our firm foundation of dependence upon Him, and as an avenue of praise. He is our strength! He is our hope! He is our salvation! We recognize this best from a place of weakness, not one of strength, particularly our own strength.
Jesus told us that unless we become like little children we will not enter the kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 18:3). (Note: He said become childlike not childish!). He stressed the humility of a child in this verse. A child is dependent and needy. A child looks to its father to be provider and protector. A child has no real strength in itself. A child’s heart is particularly open to the things of God and is willing to believe.
Let’s camp out on this concept a bit. In his latest venture, The Engagement Project, Del Tacket explains that while we often think of our hearts and minds as separate, it is probably better to think of the heart as a subset of the mind.* Facts and concepts enter our minds largely unfiltered; there they are sorted as to whether they are truth or not. Those we deem as truth then may undergo a further process where they can be received into our hearts.
Not all things we consider true are taken into our hearts. We may know it is true that we need to eat right and exercise to be healthy, but unless we take that to heart, we won’t benefit from that knowledge. We don’t necessarily act on things in our minds, but we do act on those things we take to our hearts. James tell us that the demons know who God is, but that true knowledge doesn’t save them because it doesn’t change them. He says that believing in God is great, but it has to go beyond our heads into our heart to create the actions which are proof we have saving faith. Paul says we need to confess with our mouths (that shows it is understood in our minds), and also believe in our hearts (Rom. 10:9-10). Neil Anderson says we can act contrary to what we profess, but we never act contrary to what we actually believe. This is why the Bible says, “By their fruits you will know them.” Our actions show what is truly in our hearts.
We can picture the mind and heart of a child as fairly close in size,* because kids are incredibly open-hearted. This is both good and bad. It is good if what is poured into their open hearts is God’s truth; it is horrifying if what is being poured in is the pollution of the world. Today is a dangerous time for the hearts of children. As adults we are responsible to guard their hearts for them. Jesus warns that it is better for a person to die than to lead a little one astray (Luke 17:2).
As we age we have experiences which disillusion us. Things which we believed to be true, people we trusted —these were proven false—and the gap between what comes into our minds and what we allow in our hearts grows wider. This, too, is both good and bad. It is good because we need to be discerning. There are many things we should definitely not allow in our hearts, for Prov. 4:23 tells us, “Above all else guard your heart.” But it can also be bad, because we can become cynical, skeptical, and hard-hearted, and have the wicked, unbelieving hearts which turn from God, as Hebrews 3:12 warns us against.
“Little children praise You perfectly, and so should we…” That is the call of this anthem, and the call of Scripture—that we should become like little children: dependent, open-hearted, trusting, full of the kind of adoration a little child has for its father. Ask a 3 or 4-year-old about their dad and listen to the hero worship that will come from their lips. That is how we should laud our Father in Heaven. Ask the Lord to show how to love and laud Him as the little children He desires us to be.