By 1 Samuel 4 God’s people are in a mess, nationally and spiritually. Nationally the fearsome Philistines are threatening invasion. Morally, the priesthood has been corrupted by Eli’s wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas. What is the most deplorable thing, however, is the people’s view of God. It has become so distorted that they see God as nothing more than an oversized good luck charm meant to do their bidding when beckoned.
This is what is behind the Israelites decision to bring the ark of God into the battle with the Philistines (v.1-9). They think they can use God like a rabbits foot while they live any way they please. Well, God allows his ark (the symbol of His presence) to be captured, and allows the two wicked priests to be killed, and allows the High Priest Eli to die upon hearing the news. All this prompts the daughter in law of Eli to go into labor. Upon giving birth she names her child Ichabod.
When we read Ichabod we normally think of headless horsemen and sleepy hallow, but the word really means, “Where is the glory?” or “The glory has departed.” With all that had transpired, especially with the capturing of the ark of God it was as if His glory (His abiding and manifest presence) had left.
I wander how many churches in America today should be called “Ichabod Baptist”. Do we have a sense of God’s glory and presence when we meet or is it mere ritual? The answer to that question will depend, in large part, to how we view God. Indeed our view of God is the most important thing about us. Is our image of God nonsense or Biblical?