Ichabod

 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.”

1 Samuel 4:19-22

 

The Israelites had engaged the Philistines in battle and lost.  As they evaluated what went wrong, Israel’s leaders decided they would take the Ark of the Covenant into a rematch with the Philistines.  The ark was the symbol of God’s presence among the Israelites.  They were certain that carrying this box would ensure their victory.

However, there is a vast difference between symbol and substance.  Not only did God not give Israel victory, but the Philistines carried away the ark to their homeland.

Eli was Israel’s judge at this time.  A messenger came to him and told of Israel’s defeat.  The messenger 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” (1 Samuel 4:17).  The Bible says that upon hearing that the ark had been captured, Eli fell over in his chair and died.

It wasn’t the news of the death of his sons that brought about Eli’s death.  It was the capture of the ark.

Eli’s daughter-in-law was getting ready to give birth to a son.  What should have been a celebratory occasion was met with mourning over the news of the ark’s capture.  She named her son Ichabod, which means, “the glory has departed.”

It is striking to me that in the midst of life and death, God’s glory was the central concern.

In Jesus’ model prayer, he instructed his disciples to pray for the centrality of God.  “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).  Only after praying for God to be honored as God does Jesus move on to daily concerns.

Only in the brilliant light of God’s glory may life be seen in its proper perspective.  When he is the glorious center of all things, my issues are pushed to the periphery.  I see that he is a loving Father who is intimately involved in the life of his children.  I also see that he is the sovereign One, ruling over his creation to his own good ends.

When he is the glorious center of all things, my issues are pushed to the periphery.  I see that he is a loving Father who is intimately involved in the life of his children.  I also see that he is the sovereign One, ruling over his creation to his own good ends.

As I reflect upon my prayer life, it is painfully obvious that I have neglected this petition.  Yes.  I have wanted God to be honored, for his glory to be known.  But, my most earnest prayers have been centered around my life, my circumstances, my struggles.  The insanity of this is that the glory of God is the answer to all of these things.  His glory is the only true and lasting satisfaction for the human heart.  My greatest need, the church’s greatest need, our nation’s greatest need, our world’s greatest need is the glory of God.  May God put it on the heart of his church to pray accordingly.

 

Misery and Mission

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.’  So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.  In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”

Exodus 1:8-9, 13-14

Israel was thriving in Egypt.  The fertile land of Goshen was perfectly suited for the growth of herds and livestock.  Things really could not have been much better.  The problem was, Goshen was not the land God intended for Israel to inhabit.  This was a problem because satisfied people are difficult to motivate.  Why should Israel pack up and leave when everything was going so well?

Eagles know how to motivate their contented young.  When it is time for young eagles to leave the nest, the adult eagles will fly over them carrying freshly caught food.  The eagles will chirp and flap their wings, but the adult does not come to the nest.  The adult eagles will continue to do this until the young ones become hungryeagle enough to leave the comfort and safety of home.  Adult eagles create discomfort in order to motivate their young.

A new Pharaoh came to power in Egypt who had no idea who Joseph was.  When this Pharaoh looked toward Goshen, he did not see the descendants of the man who saved Egypt from famine.  He saw a million or so potential dissidents.  Pharaoh was concerned that Israel might entertain thoughts of uprising, so he determined to preemptively crush their spirits.  He subjected Israel to slave labor and ordered the killing of every newborn Hebrew boy.  “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25).  Israel was feeling discomfort and it was creating in them a hunger for escape from this home that had been so comfortable and safe.

Most of us do not want to mess with things when they are going well.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Don’t rock the boat.  We want the comfortable, prosperous times to last as long as possible.  Consider this: what if God gives us these good times to serve as rest and preparation for the conflict and difficulty of His mission?  If this is the case, but we try to hang on to the comfort and prosperity, God must create discomfort and hunger in us.  Difficulties may be God’s way of prodding us out of our nests of complacency and into His mission.