She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”’
(1 Samuel 4:21-22 NIV)
The ark of God was symbolic of His presence. When the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines and faced defeat (about four thousand were killed), they asked themselves, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies” (1 Samuel 4:3). However, little did they know that the Lord’s glory had departed from Israel. Therefore, despite the presence of the ark in the camp, thirty thousand soldiers died, the ark itself was captured by the Philistines and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died (vv.10-11). The only person who seemed to understand the departure of God’s glory is Phinehas’ wife, who named her son Ichabod meaning, “where is the glory?”
Israel faced ichabod because of their sin, disobedience and idolatry. The sons of Eli the priest were sinning against the Lord and Eli did nothing about it (1 Samuel 3:11-14). We find that ichabod had started to become a reality in the opening of the third chapter, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). It’s not until the fourth chapter when the ark is captured that we’re actually told that God’s glory had departed from His people.
When things go wrong, many people ask, “Why God?” or “Where is God?” And yet oftentimes, these are the same people who have taken God’s presence for granted. After the tragic 9/11 events, Anne Graham Lotz had the following to say:
I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it.
Thankfully, the ark of God, His presence, returned to Israel (1 Samuel 6), and will return to us when we repent and seek Him once again.
Never take God’s presence for granted.