2003-10-21 - Miserere
2 Samuel 24:14 Then David said to Gad, 'I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.
Miserere is a musical prayer. It may be a term you are not familiar with, but it is based on the 51'st and 57'th Psalms in the book of Psalms. It is usually focused on times of penitence, or at funerals, and mainly keys in on the celebration of Passion Week in the Roman Catholic Church. It generally has a Gregorian flair, but many composers have taken their own bent on the Miserere. The most noted seems to be Gregorio Allegri (1590-1640). He always used his interpretations of the Miserere in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday and Friday of Passion Week.
But, you might ask, what does Miserere mean? It means "have mercy." I am not aware if the practice is still in place in the Roman Catholic Church, but what a wonderful word. The concept of the Lord having mercy on us should drive us. It is obviously a Latin term, and that would make sense. Have mercy, what more can we say? We stand in need of God's grace, mercy, kindness and that is all we can hope for. That mercy is found in Christ alone. We can all know that mercy is only in Christ, but is that mercy in His death and Resurrection our only hope and trust? To say, "have mercy" is a profound admission of our need. It shows how desperate we are. It is only when we admit and know how desperate we are without Christ that we begin to have true life.
I honestly have said what I hoped to say, but this is too short for a devo. I would like to share a story with you, from my reading, which is on mercy, and then comment.
This is a story about Queen Victoria, who was only 19, or they say maybe 20. She was presented with a death sentence for her approval, from one of her soldiers, just days after when she took control. The soldier was to be shot. The story goes that she read it, paused, and said to the officer presenting the charge, "Have you nothing to say in behalf of this man?" The officer replied, "Nothing: he has deserted three times." She replied, "Think again my lord." He replied, "seeing her Majesty so earnest about it. I said, 'He is certainly a bad soldier; but there was somebody who spoke to his good character; and he may be a good man for aught. I know to the contrary'" "Oh, thank you a thousand times!" She quickly wrote "Pardoned" in large letters and sent the decision away with trembling hands and deep emotion.
It is an interesting story, but there is a lot here. First, we have to make sure that eternal forgiveness is never thought to be based on character. Mercy is in Christ alone. His forgiveness is His forgiveness, and it is not found in character. It is found in Christ, and mercy is always undeserved. It is unmerited favor. I have only summarized the story here, but it is clear that the soldier deserved some punishment, but he was given mercy he may not have deserved. That is what Christ offers all who will come to Him in repentance and faith--mercy. It is a wonder, but it is also true.
Miserere might be a new term, but that is what we cry. Lord, "have mercy." We do so because there is not another place for us to turn. We rest in Christ or we rest in foolishness and sin. Lord, we plead for your mercy -- Miserere.
Soli Deo Gloria,