His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. 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 4:19-22 NIV)
A few years ago, I wrote a devotional about the birth of Ichabod which was titled “Where is the Glory?” And a few days ago, my Bible reading plan took me back to this reading from First Samuel 4, but I noticed something different this time around. When Eli’s daughter-in-law was told that she had given birth to a boy, “she did not respond or pay any attention.” Instead, she went on naming her son, “Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel…The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” As I have already noted in my previous devotional, this woman was the only one who seemed to understand the importance of God’s presence symbolized through the ark. That is why not even the news of giving birth to a boy – which, in and of itself, was a reason to rejoice – could keep her from despair. Phinehas’ wife was right. Nothing can replace God’s presence, not even the things in life that we think would bring us joy. Ichabod may not be a pleasant name, but it definitely serves as a good reminder to all of us that apart from God, there can be no joy.