She named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” (1 Samuel 4:21, 22 ESV)
Any cheery, happy-go-lucky, ‘always look on the bright side of life’, kinda guy would be hard pressed to get much positive from the fourth chapter of 1 Samuel.
The sentiment at the outset is a noble one. Having suffered the disappointment of a defeat at the hands of their enemies, the Israelites feel they are in need of a game-changer. That meant the ark of the covenant. For with that, they felt, it was assured that the presence of God would be with them and stir them to victory.
In fact such was the boost to their confidence with the presence of the ark that the noise even had an unsettling effect on their enemy. the response of the enemy, then, is creditable. Rather than withdrawing in fear, they rouse themselves to give it their best shot and lo and behold the Israelites who were previously just defeated are then devastated by their enemy. Not only that, but the ark of the covenant is taken.
Disappointment, defeat, devastation, despair and the departure.
It’s fascinating that of all of these that which sets off both Eli and his daughter-in-law as she gives birth and dies is the departure. Such is the value of the presence of the ark that its departure has a grievous effect on those who depended so much on it. This highlights the importance of the presence, how precious the presence is.
What’s also intriguing is that the preciousness of the presence did not stimulate Eli to take action to ensure it was appreciated through his sons behaving properly. Yet at their deaths, the father realises the implications of his negligence. Often it is said that we don’t know what we’ve got until its gone. Episodes like this are to remind us that we shouldn’t take for granted what we have and think that we can just flaunt it in desperate situations to help us out.
Episodes like this are humbling reminders about appreciating what we have in the presence of God. Appreciating his presence through careful observance of His instructions and valuing Him above all things. Even if that puts us at odds with the desires and behaviour of family and friends. Focus on and appreciation of His presence should mean everything to us.
In this day and age the disappointment, defeat, despair and devastating effect of Ichabod may not always be experienced immediately, but the ultimate fate is the reality of eternity in the state of Ichabod.
For his Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden