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. Palace intrigue ensues almost immediately and in an odd sort of way. Adonijah requests that he be given Abishag the Shunammite as his wife. Not sure, but Solomon obviously saw this as some sort of threat, and he had his brother killed. From a political point of view, maybe a necessary expedient, 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).
Adonijah pardoned, then killed. Abiathar expelled. Joab and Shimei killed. What stands out here? What’s the one variable in all this? And it hits 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 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!
Arm me with watchful care
As in Thy sight to live,
And now Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And still on Thee rely,
Oh, let me not my trust betray,
But press to realms on high. –Charles Wesley (1762)