And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:23
Here’s the scene: King David is dead and his son Solomon, at age sixteen, is the rookie king. Adonijah, Solomon’s half brother has just been executed by Solomon, and Joab, King David’s formal general is running scared. And he should be. As David lie on his deathbed, Joab had joined forces with Adonijah in his failed coup d’état. But even before his death, David warned Solomon of what a scoundrel Joab was and that a wise man should have him killed.
Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. 1 Kings 2:5-6
In fear, Joab runs to the Tabernacle.
So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, and took hold of the horns of the altar. And King Solomon was told, “Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the Lord; there he is, by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” 1 Kings 2:28-29
The first thing that jumps out of the text is why King David allowed so much insubordination in his general. If Joab was so horrific a general (and he was), why didn’t David just have him executed? The answer is scandalous: Joab had dirt on David. In addition to Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba; Joab was the only one who knew about David’s plot to kill Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband). While it is true David had confessed his sin to the Lord, his dirty little secret from the world had consequences, essentially leading to the deaths of Abner, Amasa, and his own son Absalom. There is a powerful lesson for all believers in that.
Depart From Me
The other lesson is for the non-believer: in times of trouble evil men cannot cling to a faith they do not have. Even in First Peter 2:16, the writer asserts that believers are not to use their liberties as a cloak for vice. In other words, no one can unrepentive-ly do whatever they like Monday through Saturday and then crawl into the confessional on Sunday and claim sanctuary. For this reason every believer should examine themselves, or more accurately submit themselves to God’s examination, to see if they are truly in the Kingdom of God or merely clinging to the horns of the altar. Joab discovered too late that the church is no sanctuary for the unrepented soul. Let no one make the same mistake.