1 Samuel 4:12-22
12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head.
13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out.
14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli.
15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see.
16 And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?”
17 He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”
18 As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her.
20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention.
21 And 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.
22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
Apparently two people in Israel knew that the Ark of God was important and worth more than just a good luck piece, for when they heard the news of its capture, they both died. And while Hophni and Phinehas were important to Eli and his daughter-in-law, it seems the death of the two men was of less importance than the capture of the Ark. In both scenes, their death is mentioned almost as an afterthought. But, God had promised that Hophni and Phinehas would both die on the same day because of their wickedness and now that has happened. In response the Ark being taken, Phinehas’ wife names the new baby (who we already know will not live to a ripe old age because of his father’s sin) Ichabod, which means “the glory has departed” or more literally, “the glory has been exiled.” God has withdrawn His presence from the people He loves. This is a dire situation.
Why is it we don’t take God seriously? When God turns us over to our choices, we are in bad shape. And yet we struggle to get away all the time. Like a toddler who struggles against mom’s hand as he tries to run out into the street, we insist with God that we know better and attempt to escape His grasp. This is always a bad choice, and yet we make it over and over. In the case of today’s story, God finally lets go and allows Israel to have what they want – not to serve Him. It is a bad choice and will end in pain, and God withdraws in the hope that His absence will draw their hearts back to Himself. Our return is always His goal.
Have you ever felt like God has withdrawn from your life? We all know that hollow feeling of being on our own without help from someone stronger than we are. We all recognize those times when God feels far away. But we need to examine that situation, for it is at those times that God is probably longing for us to look back at Him and realize our great need for His constant presence. Instead of playing out in the road, awaiting the coming disaster, those hollow feelings need to drive us back into His embrace, for He wants that from us more than anything! When it feels like God has gone into exile, look again. You are probably the one who moved. He remains constant, ever waiting to embrace, love, and bless. I don’t know anyone named Ichabod. I hope you don’t either!