Clinging to the Altar


I Kings 2:28-30

28 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.

29 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.

30 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.


Joab had little enough religion, yet he flies to the altar when he is pursued by the sword. Many people run for external religion when death threatens them. Then, they go to greater lengths than the Bible prescribes. They not only run to the tabernacle, but they must cling to the altar.

First, we see the outward use of ordinances, which doesn’t provide salvation. If a man rests in external rites, he’ll die there.

We see people who rely upon Sacraments. In health or sickness they don’t bring salvation. They are intended for the saved and will harm the unsaved.

1 Cor 11:26-29

26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.


We see people turn to ministers. Some dying people look upon them with foolish reverence. In the hour of death they resort to bedside prayers. Great importance is attached to funeral sermons and ceremonials.

We also see people rely upon feelings. Many people have relied upon feelings as grounds for hope. This is all futile. A drowning man may well not feel like swimming. How terrible it would be to perish with your hand on the altar!

Now let us look at the spiritual turn to the true altar that brings salvation. We’ll use Joab’s case as an illustration.

First, let’s examine his act. He “caught hold on the horns of the altar.” We do this by flying from the sword of justice to the Person of Jesus, taking hold of His great atoning work and through faith uniting us to His plan.

Now there were fierce demands from his adversary. “Thus saith the king, Come forth.” Today we have the demands of unbelieving Pharisees teaching salvation by works. These are the ones who teach that if a gay doesn’t become straight that he can’t be saved.

We see man’s accusing conscience saying that you don’t deserve forgiveness. The mainstream church tells us that we don’t deserve forgiveness unless we give up what is normal and natural to us. How would they feel if they were told that they couldn’t be saved unless they loved someone of the same sex?

Then, the devil falsely quotes Holy Scripture. He gets plenty of cooperation from the mainstream church. They pull out the scriptures that support their personal feelings and ignore the scriptures that give us our support and hope. The devil doesn’t want one gay or lesbian to ever be saved. He thinks that by turning the mainstream church against us that he has us locked up and ready for hell. Isn’t it a shame that the church cooperates with the devil like this?

Look at the desperate resolve of Joab. “Nay, but I will die here.” This was a wise resolution because we:

  1. Will perish anywhere else.
  2. Can’t make things worse by clinging to Christ.
  3. Have nowhere else to cling. There is no other righteousness or sacrifice.
  4. You can’t be dragged away if you are clinging to Jesus.
  5. We can receive hope in the fact that no one has ever perished clinging to Jesus.

We have been assured security.

John 3:36

36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


If you perished not trusting in Jesus, your ruin would:

  1. Defeat God.
  2. Dishonor Christ.
  3. Dishearten sinners from coming to Jesus.
  4. Discourage saints, making them doubt all the promises.
  5. Distress the glorified, who have rejoiced over those who have repented and would now see that they were wrong.

Therefore, come now and grip the horns of the altar. Don’t let the mainstream church stop you from receiving what God has promise YOU!

You know, when a thirsty man to the well, he doesn’t quench his thirst by going. It gets worse the closer he gets. He can begin to hear the refreshing splashes. But what he draws out of the well satisfies his thirst. Just so, trying forms and ordinances and forms of what other people consider godliness doesn’t bring true peace. You must come and dip out the Living Water and drink for yourself.