Blogtext: May I introduce you to Ichabod?

Within a few days of her expected firstborn child's arrival, the wife of Pinchas Elison is sitting waiting for news from a battlefield where her husband and his brother is fighting for his nation. The battle is between Israel and the Philistines, once again. The things are going badly for the Israelites and the leaders are casting about for desperate stop-gap measures to stem the tide of defeat and continued slavery.

This happened at the endtime of a period in the history of Israel which was characterized by two main elements: "There was no king in Israel", that is: no unifying central power. And secondly: "Every man did what was right in his own eyes", that is: moral anarchy and spiritual bankcruptcy. The nation had been ruled by various and shifting individuals (sometimes even shifty) from one or the other of the twelve tribes of Israel. The events have led us to the last of these judges, Sh'mu'el or Samuel Elkhanason, born of the noble lady Hannah whose one hope in life was that she would be fruitful. In the terms of the former covenant that meant having live offspring.To be barren was the worst thing a woman could face. When God hears her pleas and she does bring forth a son that son is called 'God hears' i e Samuel.

She weans her son at about three years of age and brings the child to the temple which at that time was the same tabernacle/tent that God many many years ago had commanded Moses to build, "according to the pattern shown unto Moses". The town is Shilo, one of three places that later became part of Samuels circuit as a Judge of Israel. In Shilo the present incumbent in High priestly office is a man called Eli. He has two 'good for nothing' sons, Hophni and Pinehas. The religion is corrupt, the practices of it are corrupt and the very central fact of what the Tabernacle was to be was hardly known. The new Testament comment is succint and to the point: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."

The tabernacle consisted of an outer courtyard with a building mostly in the western half of it. The building itself was a prefabricated and mobile unit constructed of man-sized burdens and could be assembled and dissambled in a few hours and moved whenever the Cloud by day or the Pillar of fire by night was seen to lift off from the westernmost part of the tent of the tabernacle. The temple itself was divided into two parts, one, the front room which was called 'the holy' and the other and inner, called 'the holiest'.

No time or place here to cover all the details but the most essential and also most hidden from man's view. The entire instructions are found in the bible so I advise the reader to study for themselves. (Exodus, Hebrews) But here we are looking at mr Ichabod and so the central object of the innermost chamber is of interest to us. What has a name of a man to do with the most sacred content of a temple?

Not merely furniture

"And they shall construct an ark (a box for safekeeping) of acacia wood about 75 cm long, 50 cm deep and 50 cm wide. Cover it inside and outside with Gold. Make four feet under its four corners, fasten a ring to each foot and make carrying poles of wood and covered with gold to be permanently in place, so that the ark can be ready to move wherever God directs. Put into the ark the two tables of the law that God dictated to Moses. And out of about 30 kgs of gold you shall make a lid for the ark, at each end of the lid you shall make a cherub so that two cherubs are facing each other with a space between them. Their wings shall be arched up over the space between them and so protect the place of atonement, the mercy-seat. The cherubim are to be of hammered work, one with the seat itself, and this is the lid placed on the ark. And there I shall meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from above the cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel."

These were, briefly, the commands directing the building of the ark and it's one and only rightful use! A place of safe keeping of the written words of God for humanity and the place of continued revelation of God to man, further expanding, explaining and applying those written commands into the real life of mankind. It had a physical outer form of precise definition and could and should be a central part of the faith they had since Abraham. But never faith in the wood and gold or angelshapes, but in the God who chose this way of showing Himself. When the tabernacle had been finally ready for its use and had been built and erected as the pattern had prescribed this happened: "Thus  Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord (YHWH) filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."(Ex 40:33-38)

The "Shekinah", the glory of the Lord, the presence of a living and loving God, was symbolized by the building and the furniture. But the physical objects were not the thing they symbolized, that was a spiritual reality apart from the objects themselves. Here is the crucible of religion. Religion means having faith in the visible symbols, doing obeisance to things made with human hands and to remain largly ignorant of the spiritual reality they are meant to point to. While Moses was on the mountain receiving God's own writing, Aaron let the people loose to pursue their understanding of religion: "We grew up in Egypt, we can't believe in a God we cannot see, cannot kiss, cannot physically bow down to. Make us a golden calf!"
(The christian faith has NOTHING to do with that sort of religion! Or, rather sadly, should not.)

Has the glory of God ever descended on a Bull? Has the glory of God ever been something you can purchase for money? Has any building ever been the equivalent to God? Has the glory of God ever located itself in a machine or an organisation? Never, ever.

Back to the battlefield on the mid western section of Israel. The armies are drawn up near Aphek, a city some miles north of Jaffa, in the middle of the land. The Israelites lose 4000 men in the first engagement. They cry out; "Why has the Lord defeated us?" Indeed why? Had he not said to them that they would always be the head and not the tail? Yes, he had said that, but on one condition! That they kept the content of the ark in living reality and not only in fond memory! "If you do evil in my sight, you will suffer defeat from the hands of your enemies, every time!" (read: Deuteronomy 27-28)

If we forget that the Word of God is one whole salvation history and start to treat it as if we were allowed to pick and chose what suits our taste and self will then we will soon be at the end of our tether. And back to the very same spiritual reality of the times of the Judges: each man does what it right in his own eyes.

So the defeated Israelites apply their misapprehension of God and His Word and come up with a solution to their dilemma. "So the people sent to Shiloh and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD of Hosts who sits above the cherubim, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Pinehas were there with the ark of the covenant of God."

Shall I elaborate? The people thought that the symbols of Gods presence would guarantee the same presence even though they had broken the covenant conditions a thousand times over. They thought nothing of allowing the two most corrupt malpractitioners of their religion to carry the ark into battle. They had a token understanding of 'the LORD of Hosts' but ignored the implications. Generally that is the same word of old: 'Yahweh Sebaoth' as seen in Isaiah 6, Psalm 24, and means 'The commander of the army of the LORD'. Joshua met him face to face outside Jericho. He will again stand on the Earth as the final winner in the final battle. But God is NOT ON OUR side unless we firmly stand on His side first. So Joshua asked of this man with a drawn sword: "Are you for us or against us? No, I have come as the commander/captain of the army of the LORD". And Joshua fell on his face to the Earth and bowed down and said: what has my Lord to say to his servant? And the captain of the army of the LORD said:"Remove your sandals from your feet for the place where you are standing is holy." (Joshua 5:13-15) 

No such thing at Shiloh. No such response from the sons of Eli, none from the people of Israel. Not one of them understood that you cannot use the things of God for human ends. If you do it ends humans.

The story goes on: when the ark was brought into the camp, in the right manner: carried on the shoulders of priests, there was a loud  cry of victorious hope. The earth shook under the cries. The Philistines heard it and soon sussed out what was afoot. "The Philistines were afraid for they said, "God has come into the camp" And continued: "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before..who shall deliever us from the hand of these mighty gods.The very ones that smote Egypt with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness! Take courage and fight or we will be slaves to Israel as Isreal has been slaves to us!" Their understanding of their own gods tainted and hightened their fears but also gave indications of what Israel had lost.

Unless God himself is present the symbols are useless!  As an example: Do not think for one moment that water will save you in Baptism unless you have a saving faith in the mighty Saviour!

The Philistines fought as never before and not only did they capture the ark, they also killed Hophni and Pinehas. Men with false gods fight better than men who have forsaken God but still hope He will save them. A Benjaminite runs to Shilo with the bad news, ashes on his head and all. Eli, the priest who could no longer tell the difference between a human being pouring out their soul and one who had been pouring in alcohol, was sitting on his usual perch when the messenger came to him.

"And it came about when he mentioned the ark of God that Eli fell off the seat backwards, broke his neck and died, for he was old and heavy."
His daughter in law, Pinehas wife, was far gone in her pregnancy, and when she heard the news of the death of her husband and father-in-law the pangs of birth came over her, she bent down and the child was born. And as she was about to die the women assisting said "dont worry, its a boy." She ignored them but with her dying breath she said: "Call him I-chabod, for the glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God has been taken."

(As a remarkable parenthesis the story tells us what happened when the Philistines brought the ark of God into their own temple in one of their cities. They worshipped the fish-god Dagon. An image of a man with a fish head. They placed the ark of the LORD before this miserable idol. Next morning the image lay prostrate before the ark in an abject show of worship! They raised it up, it fell again next night and both head and hands were broken off on impact with the threshhold. There is more reverence of God and awe of His glory among some dead things than among most living people.)

What had Israel lost apart from the battle, their freedom and many lives? The very essential symbols of that which was their major reason for existence! They lost the symbols because they had already lost the reality! God had chosen them to be the express testimony to God in a godless world. To be the one people among whom the glory of God was to be seen.

Is not Ichabod a suitable name for that which today is loosely labeled christianity? Where is the glory of God? Who cares for the glory of God as long as there is all this human enterprise to be praised? Why bother about submission to God when deliberate opposition to God fills so many churches?
Why not celebrate the symbols if that is all you have left?

Ichabod lives on, but is almost unheard of again. Except for one thing in 1 Samuel 14.  The battle against the Philistines carried on long after Samuel stopped running. Saul took up the gauntlet. Not always sucessfully, at least until David finally clobbered Goliath. But one slender note tells the continuation of Ichabod. "And the people who were with Saul numbered about 600  men as well as Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Pinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD's Priest in Shiloh wearing an ephod."

The one whose name said that 'the glory had gone', was not made a priest after his father, but his brother's son was named. (Ahijah may have been a firstborn and therefore in line anyway but we do not know if his father Ahitub was ever a priest). But even so it would have been odd to be ministered to by a man whose name was 'the glory of God is gone' while in fact the ark was away in the home of Abinadab on the hill. And while Israel mourned the loss of their God for 20 years. 1 Sam 7:2 (But see also "Mary, supposing Him to be the gardener said. " They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where have they laid Him!" (John 20:2) Can the Lord be mislaid? Was God ever lost?)

Read the end chapter 2 in 1 Samuel for a breathtaking prophecy concerning Pinehas and Hophni and their father.

What has this to do with us? Well may you ask. Paul explains the purpose of the existence of the church of Christ:  "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, even as he has chosen us in Him from before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and whithout blame before Him in love, having predestined us to be His own adopted children by Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of His good will, to the praise of the  glory of His grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved!

..That we who first trusted grace should be to the praise of His Glory..
Eph 1:1-23

What in the world of christianity today shows forth the glory of God? There is not that much that needs God and His glory as it's sole explanation.

Or was it simply prophetic: Ichabod rules? Is that not the predicted 'falling away' from the truth of the gospel? You see: all things are written beforehand for our instruction so that we who live at the end of our time would be wise and learn from it.

The Holy Spirit was given to bring glory to God
The angels at the Birth of Christ sang of the Glory of God
The saints before the white throne will sing of god's glory.
All creation sings of His glory.

Ichabod would silence them all. If the glory is gone all that is left is wood, hay and stubble. And no, you were not redeemed by silver and gold but by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not by any affiliation to a christian organisation.

So instead of seeing the words of God obeyed and done we have to listen to the same things that Samuel heard when he came to ask King Saul if he had obeyed the Lord. "Yes I have done everything that the Lord said!" "Oh indeed? Then pray tell me, what is this bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen I hear from your yard?" "Ah, you mean those? Well that is no fault of mine for you see the people decided that it was a pity to kill them on the spot so they brought them to sacrifice to God." " Samuel turned to him and said: "Obedience is better than sacrifice." " Because you have not obeyed, the kingdom has just passed out of your hands." 1 Sam 15:20-23

Ichabod! The glory is departed..

Father glorify thy Name!

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster  Jan 29 2018

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