By Joe D. Sizemore
Text: Matthew 16:24-28
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? It is a very common scripture, and it is so common that we pass over it without asking the question properly. And those who are in this building that do not know the Lord as your Savior, I know you feel that penetrating movement of a divine God as He places His footprints in the midst of this group tonight. Maybe four, five, eight, or ten people will make their way down here to this altar tonight and call on the Lamb of God to save you from sin.
Would you believe that as I read this scripture from the Book of First Kings that I had not known this or read this before, to my knowledge. Oh, I’ve read it I’m sure, for I have read all the Bible, but there is something here that grabbed a hold of me as a I read these verses. I never thought of this before. In the transition of the kingdom from David’s rule to Solomon’s rule in I Kings 2, there is a story here that will take you a little while to read, understand, and comprehend. But it was in the transition of the kingdom from David’s power to Solomon’s power that there were quite a few problems. Because the time came that David drew nigh (second chapter), that he would pass on from the scene. There was a man in his kingdom that had done some things that was against the center purpose of God. His name was Joab. In this transition of the kingdom and David’s change to Solomon, it says:
Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statues, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: That the LORD may continue his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel. Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. [I King 2:1-5]
Joab did this injustice to David and his leadership during the time of the kingdom. Now as the change comes and Solomon takes over the kingdom at the death of David, we find that he begins a series of judgments against some individuals in his kingdom and an awesome judgment came on them, and he took the lives of these men that had done this injustice to his father, David. The tidings came that while Solomon was executing these men because of their awesome behavior in David’s kingdom, in verse 28, notice this:
Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. [I Kings 2:28]
Now this first appears to be a very positive action, but I want to remind you of something tonight that happened in this case that I did not know before ’til I read this today. He turned and went to the tabernacle of the Lord and caught hold on the horns of the altar. He thought he was safe at that moment, but he really wasn’t. He thought he would make a quick dash to the altar and somehow Solomon would give him some kind of reprieve. But his judgment that had already been predetermined followed him to the altar, and there it was; let me read:
And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me. And the king said unto him, Do as he hath said, and fall upon him, and bury him; that thou mayest take away the innocent blood, which Joab shed, from me, and from the house of my father. And the LORD shall return his blood upon his own head, who fell upon two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, my father David not knowing thereof, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amas the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah. [I Kings 2:29-32]
What happened here was he reached out his hands and gook hold of the horns of the altar. He thought he was in a safe place. I want you to listen carefully because this is very sensitive, and a very particular way, I want to say this. Have you ever stopped to consider the sacredness of the altar in the house of the Lord? Have you ever considered that you just can’t run in and out . . . without your heart being right because of the judgments that you have coming on you? Some just rush to the altar, make a few statements before God and rush right back out there and keep on doing the things they’ve been doing. God says that “I am a God of mercy and a God of love, but I am also a God of judgment.” It was an awesome thing when Joab’s life was taken while his hands were on the altar. That’s an awesome thing! But Joab had opportunity to make things right in his heart. He had opportunity to say, “Yes, I am with You in worship. I am with You in this matter.”
Do you understand what I am saying? Look, folks, it’s important to know and to have the knowledge of true repentance, for repentance is valuable; repentance is important; repentance is something, and you cannot treat God in a sacrilegious way by running into His altar every time you get into trouble. You’re going to have to make up your mind that you are going to serve God, or the judgment of sin may catch you even while you’re praying at an altar. You can’t be fickle about this matter. You can’t be sacrilegious about it. You cannot laugh and make jokes about the service or the inspiration of the altar. You may do it about individuals, but you better never do it about God! God will not be joked about. You cannot make light of sacred things. Oh, that puts an awesomeness in me that makes me say, “Oh, Lord, let me examine myself. I will not treat Your altar lightly and rush into it and put my hands on it and be saved.”
The word came from Solomon to Benaiah to go get him (Joab) while he’s laying up there at the altar. Because the law had said that if a man shed blood innocently or by a mistake, he could run into that place of refuge and go up to the altar and make atonement, and he would be cleared up. If he had done these things by a mistake, if he had committed murder by mistake, he had a place of refuge and even cities of refuge where he could run, and he could go, and he could fall at the altar, and he could make restitution, and all would be well. And God accepted that by law. But did you know that law was changed when it came to the exercise of Joab, and Joab taking two lives? He never ever considered running to that place of refuge. He never ever thought about it. In fact, he made light of it!
You cannot make light of your sins, friends, and joke about the horribleness of this old world without receiving the judgments that come from the Almighty. Some of you are just running in and touching the altar, and you don’t have your heart in it. If someone comes and taps you on the shoulder and says, “Won’t you go, friend,” you must put your whole mind and your soul, your strength, and everything, and I’m telling you, it will be worth it! Amen! It is worth it to be saved. What would you gain if you gained the whole world and lose your own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? I’ve seen them, brethren, I’ve seen them play church. Sometimes I’ve even seen it currently, not something in the past. Clapping, but your heart is not in it; singing, but there is no feeling there; worshiping, but there is no inspiration. Friends, could I tell you as one who loves you: Don’t do it! Don’t do that! ‘Cause you may say, “Well, I can clear it all up tonight because we’ll have an altar call, and I can run up there and be alright.”
You may be committing some sins out here that God knows all about, and He’s going to catch you when you get to the altar. That sounds serious doesn’t it? How many can truly say tonight if the Lord Jesus came in the clouds of glory before this night was over that you would be saved by God’s grace? How many could say it? Do you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you will be saved? How many will say with me might, “Yes, Brother Sizemore, I really do have my heart in this.” Because I am learning that material things doesn’t bring me joy; I’m learning that working two or three jobs doesn’t bring me joy; working and trying to get ahead don’t bring me joy; hut the thing that brings me joy is when I get into the presence of the Lord, and when I feel His Holy Spirit. That brings me joy!
And some may say, “Well, I don’t understand all the things about holiness in living. I may not understand all the things about standards. I may not understand.” Friend, it’s not necessarily for you to understand. Just obey the Word of the Lord and live it while you are doing it because if you are bucking against it, you may rush to an altar and there will be no God to pray to. You can’t trifle with the Holy Ghost. You can’t be angry and frustrated and upset and debative and argumentative and try to feel like you are all right when you get to church. I know there are some that try to compare this with other systems, other religious groups. “Well, they don’t have to do that. Well they don’t do this.” Do you know what you are doing? You are playing the role of Joab if you don’t watch out. “Well, this is not too important, living for God.” He had the same access to the tabernacle as Solomon and David had, but he went out there and shed some blood, and when it came time for David to die, his last dying words were “Don’t forget what Joab has done.” Isn’t that awful to go out there, dying, and have to pronounce judgment on one who was in your kingdom with you? Do you know that’s what Jesus did with Judas? Judas could have been praying. Judas could have been with them in the garden, but Judas had his eyes open, and he was watching for the guards to come through the trees down there so he could point out who He was! Judas didn’t have his heart right. He was among the twelve, but God said, “I found him out, and there’s no altar for him.”
While we are worshiping, friends, don’t you be looking to point out because God will catch you in the judgment. It’s time to shape up. Ifs time to move up, and it’s time to understand that you are trifling with the judgments of God when you trifle with His beauty. And when you’re trifling with the soul of man, you are seriously trifling.
It’s awesome that when he had his hands on the horns of the altar, Benaiah, the servant of Solomon, came. And while he had his hands on the altar he didn’t have his heart in what he was doing. He just ran in there as a place of refuge. I’ve known people to do that too — run to the church when they get into trouble. They don’t have any intentions of coming to church or giving their heart to God. They just run to church when they get in trouble. You know what? The judgments may get you. All of a sudden, and I don’t know how he took his life, but all of a sudden, his hand was loosened from that horn and life was ebbing out of that body of Joab – right at the altar! While that hand came loose and slipped down, Benaiah was heavy on his back, and the other hand slipped loose and fell down right at the altar in the tabernacle, and he slumped dead in judgment because he trifled with the principles of the Almighty.
May I say tonight that God so loved the world, and His judgments are not as harsh. If we all got what we deserve, not one of us tonight would receive any mercy. But God turned around and climbed upon the mercy seat and said, “Whosoever will, let him come and participate in this plan, whosoever will.” I’m saying, “Lord, don’t give me justice; give me mercy.” He set me free. He made me a new creation, and He gave me joy, and now if He comes before morning, I know I’ll make it all the way home. I’m going to live for God. I’m going to worship the King. I’m going to honor Him; I’m going to praise Him.
Who am I but just a little spot on the face of the earth? And the Lord God looked down and called me by my name one day. He said, “I love you so much that I will incarnate Myself in the person of Jesus Christ, come down, and shed My blood on the cross for the sins of the whole world. And if you fall on My altar while I still have mercy, I will bless you and forgive you of your sins. Go ahead and be buried in My name for the remission of sins, and I will come and live in you. I will possess you in the experience of the Holy Ghost.”
If you can just get a picture of Joab’s hands coming off the horns of the altar. He didn’t make it! You young people can live for God. You need to live for Him. I see some trifling with the world. It’s obvious. Don’t trifle. You say, “I’ll be in church while I’m in church, but I’ll be something else when I’m out and no one sees me.” Don’t trifle, because judgments get young people too. If you don’t believe me, read the Book. In some of those awesome judgments, children were taken too. Especially when they came out and mocked Elijah one time. Remember? And God let a bear come and kill them.
What will you gain if you gain the whole world and lose your soul? The real action is in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well maybe you never noticed that scripture. His religious observance was not very real from his heart. He had heard of David. He had heard of David’s teaching. He knew how he ought to behave in the kingdom. He knew the value of that tabernacle. He knew it! And yet he said, “These two lives I took, they don’t mean nothing to me. I’ll take them.” But David’s last request before he died, just a man’s request, but it happened. He said, “Don’t forget Joab. Give him his just recompense.” So Joab runs into the tabernacle and goes and takes hold of the horns of the altar in simplicity, but Benaiah comes in angry and gets him. And he dies at an altar. He died at an altar! Judgment came at the altar when he could have gotten mercy. Now that is an awesome thought. Please remember that you must not trifle with God, for His judgments will follow you.
The above article, “Don’t Forget Joab,” is written by Joe D. Sizemore. The article was excerpted from Sizemore’s book Hot Bread.
This material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.