Glory Departed

1 Samuel 4:12-22

12That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of God. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.

14Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”

The man hurried over to Eli, 15who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see. 16He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.” Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”

17The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”

18When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.

19His 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. 20As 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. 21She 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. 22She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

Introduction

What is one thing that you fear the most and wish that it won’t be lost?

If you are outside your home, are you scared when your keys are missing at winter time? Of course, you don’t want to stay in a frigid and freezing weather.

When driving, you may feel uneasy when you forget your driver’s license. You sure would not like to be caught driving without license, right?

Have you ever been scared about spiritual matters? Do you have certainty that you enter heaven? Are you very sure that you’ve got genuine faith in God? When was the last time you sensed that God listens to you when you pray?

When the Israelites went to war against the Philistines, they brought with them the Ark of the Covenant, and Eli the Priest was scared that the Ark of God will be captured. Why? Did God revealed to him what may happen so that he doubted that the Ark of God may not return to its proper place in Shiloh?

Or, was it because he knew that they did not really practice their faith in the Lord? How can we exercise our faith in the Lord in practical sense?

It says in Galatians 6:8, 8Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

As believers, we do something to please ourselves or practice faith in God.

The sons of Eli may have assumed that the Lord will save because they were priests of the Lord. However, their lifestyle suggested that they did not really believe in God. They served as priests of God just to please themselves.

The Lord did not approve their lifestyle, and He punished them. Why? The Lord knew for certain that the sons of Eli have no intention to stop their wicked lifestyle. Tragically, Eli accidentally fell backward and died when a Benjamite soldier reported what happened to the Ark of the Covenant.

1. Report

12That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of God. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.

Israel and the Philistines were at war, and Eli waited for updates. He may wish that Israel win but he was less concerned if they lost. He was so scared of what may happen to the Ark of God. He was the leading priest of Israel, and he may have taken seriously his responsibility to secure the Ark of the Covenant.

Church leaders should consider such responsible attitude not just by the Board of Trustees but all ministry leaders. The Board of Trustees could be strict implementing policies because they are responsible for the welfare of the church and assets. Similarly, ministry leaders are responsible for ministries assigned to them. Additionally, the Lord gave responsibilities to all believers.

It says in Romans 2:7, 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

As believers, persistence to do our responsibilities is practical proof that we have faith in Christ. Certainly, we don’t force ourselves. Perseverance of believers should be a result of practicing faith. By faith, we seek the Lord’s help, and He sustains us with joy to persist in the ministry He assigned to us.

Most employees persist in their job because they love what they are doing but others have to persevere because of personal or family needs. Similarly, the sons of Eli persisted just to please themselves, the people gossip about their malpractices, and the Lord ended their wickedness on the day of battle.

14Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”

The man hurried over to Eli, 15who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see. 16He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.” Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”

17The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”

18When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.

For forty years, Eli was Israel’s leader and his sons were abusive of their office as priests of God. The Lord may have warned Eli about his sons. Eli may have rebuked them, maybe not just once but multiple times, especially, when he heard people gossiping about them. They ignored him because he was old.

The tragic death of Eli and his sons was not readily embraced by his daughter-in-law. The good news of giving birth cannot overcome the bad news of death so that she did not respond to the good news of giving birth to a son.

2. Respond

19His 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. 20As 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.

The birth of a son was good news to the Israelites. Why? Sons of Israelites were expected heir of ancestral lands from their parents to maintain ancestral ownership. When daughters were given ancestral inheritance, and they married, their properties will be added to the ancestral inheritance of their husbands.

There was an Israelite named Zelophehad who had no sons. His four daughters brought their case to Moses. Moses inquired of the Lord, and God said in Numbers 36:8-9, 8Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of their ancestors. 9No inheritance may pass from one tribe to another, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.”

The Israelites may not neglect daughters, but they prioritized their sons.

That was why, the women who were helping the daughter-in-law of Eli assumed it to be good news when she gave birth to a son but she was so preoccupied not just by the death of her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law, but because the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines.

21She 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. 22She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

Eli’s daughter-in-law perfectly articulated that the glory of God vanished from Israel after the Ark of God was captured when she named her son Ichabod as expression of her grief, despair, anxiety and depression combined.

The term ‘Ichabod’ means “shameful, no glory, no honor, not praiseworthy.”

She understood it very well that without God, there’s no glory in Israel. There’s nothing worthy to be praised in the life of the Israelites, so to speak.

It says in Deuteronomy 4:5-8, 5See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

God declares that nations who follow His decrees and laws have wisdom and understanding. Many believers have expressed concerns when legislators make laws that are not favorable to Christianity. We’ve got to continually pray for our government. It favors Christians when government officials fear God.

Let God’s glory prevail in this country.

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