David in his last years. A life lived well, but clearly a human life. Lots of highs and lots of lows. At the end, trouble with Adonijah, one of his sons. But Solomon sits on the throne after David, and immediately, he shows himself wise and gracious. Adonijah asked for merciful treatment from Solomon, and he received it. Good job, Solomon! Palace intrigue almost immediately, and in an odd sort of way. Adonijah requests for his wife Abishag the Shunammite. Not sure, but Solomon obviously saw this as some sort of threat, and he had his brother killed. From a strictly political point of view, maybe a good job accomplished, but wow, what ruthlessness! And the entire palace lineup was cleaned out: the priest Abiathar expelled, Joab killed, Shimei killed, and “so the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon” (2:46).
A number of years ago, I was thinking about all this. Adonijah pardoned, then killed. Abiathar expelled. Joab and Shimei killed. What stands out here? What's the one variable in all this? And it hit me. The one act of mercy in all this is the early pardon of Adonijah. And what's significant about that? On that one occasion, Adonijah took hold of the altar and asked for pardon! All this seems analogous to our situation before God. The Lord is quick to forgive when forgiveness is requested! Stubborn and steadfast opposition to God, on the other hand, is a dangerous, dangerous thing. But our God is a forgiving God! How did he put it to Moses? “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex 34:6,7) And so, Moses prayed, “pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance” (Ex 34:9). And so should we always pray as we approach the altar.
You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed.
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid. -- E. A. Hoffman (1900)