“First Posted 27th October 2021”
Read - 1 Samuel 4:19-22
Message - Alan Burke
From a human perspective what is going on here in chapter four keeps getting worse and worse. Israel had been defeated, thirty four thousand lay dead, including Eli’s sons, the ark of the Lord was captured and Eli had been dethroned and lay dead. Now we are told of the daughter in law of Eli who was the wife of Phinehas who was pregnant. The shock of the news of what had happened sent her into labour. Notice though that it is not the news of either the death of her father in law or her husband that induces this labour, it is the loss of the ark.
This is a heart wrenching scene, as we are told she was so overcome by her labour pains that she was dying. The women with her were trying to give her comfort in the midst of it all tell her that it is a son, but she didn’t pay any attention to it. Even though the birth of a son would normally have been a time of great rejoicing but this isn’t a time for rejoicing, how could it be, she’s a widow, there is no family left, she would have been destitute as a result and her son was an orphan.
And she named the son Ichabod, saying the Glory has departed from Israel. Just so we do not miss what is really going on, so we don’t think that it is the loss of her husband or her father in law, just so we don’t think her distress is because she is a widow leaving an orphan, we are told twice the reason, she named her son Ichabod for the Glory of the Lord had departed from Israel for the ark was captured.
This woman grief is great, it is hard for us to understand the significance of what had happened, in the midst of her loss, as she was dying it was the Loss of the ark of the Lord that was what grieved and worried this woman most. The Glory of the Lord had departed from Israel, this doesn’t mean that the Lord was no longer present in any sense, after all God is Spirit (Jn 4:24) and there is no place that he is not, he is omnipresent, he is the one who sustains all that there is, there is no place that he is absent from in his creation (Ps 139:7-12).
Yes symbolically the Lord had left Israel, but that does not mean that he had left everyone in the covenant community, he was there with his faithful people who knew and loved him, he remained with the faithful remnant, even though the nation as a whole had turned from him there was still the likes of Elkanah, Hannah, Samuel and many others who aren’t mentioned (Ps 23:4). Rather as we are told that the Glory of the Lord had departed, it is that he had taken his blessing from them, no longer would he protect them from harm, they had ceased to obey him.
This warning also comes to us in the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation (2-3), for there the Lord had threatened to remove their lamp stand, the warning went out… “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from it’s place” (Rev 2:5). It is a warning that the Lord would remove his glory, it is a warning to us, to every place that claims to be a church of Christ.
If the church of Jesus Christ ceases to obey God’s word, if it begins to tolerate sin and error, if it allows the behaviour of the people to go unchecked, it if turns the worship of God into a circus, then the Lord will remove his lamp stand if they do not repent!
Q9 What is the work of creation?
The work of creation is, God’ s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good. (Gen. 1, Heb. 11:3)