Ichabod - The Glory is Gone

Bible Book: 1 Samuel  4 : 18-21
Subject: Revival; Renewal; Evil Generation; Commitment; Dedication; Ichabod

Ichabod - The Glory Is Gone

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com

1 Samuel 4:18-21

As we come to this New Year, it will serve us well to remember how important it is to walk with God - in His power - in His purposes - in His glory! For surely the glory has departed from many due to an unwillingness to simply do things God's way. So, look with me at 1 Samuel 4:18-21 and see how failing to follow divine instructions, and failure to personally seek God's will can lead to devastating results.

Here is one of the gloomiest and woeful stories in the Bible, for it reveals the horrendous results of sin. We need to see this because what happened in this Old Testament incident shows the danger to God’s people in every generation. There is shame, defeat, death and sadness written on every line of this passage, and we can experience these horrors in our lives, families and churches, unless we guard against the failure that took place here. During his life time, Joshua saw the Lord lead the people into Canaan and he watched as they occupied victoriously the Land that God had promised to Abraham and his descendants. But, by the time Joshua died, the people had devolved and gone back on their commitments to God. They have adopted the ways of the Canaanites and even accepted their idol gods into their homes.

After Joshua the people were led by Judges and priests, and sadly it was at this time that is generation is described by a single sentence in the Old Testament, found in Judges 17:6, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Because the people had turned their back's on God they were often overrun by the enemies of God. When the people of God were overrun by the enemies, they repented and cried out to God, who then blessed them with a leader to deliver them out of the hands of the ungodly idol worshippers. Yet, the Hebrew people would repeat the foolish mistake of turning from God and the story would repeat itself all over again.

You can see that we are living like that as Christians in today’s world. Surely we are creating our own moral standards and in many ways disregarding God’s Word and truth. Each person decides what he thinks is right and this leads to all kinds of sin and degradation, even among God’s people.

In the midst of the days recorded in our passage today, God raised up a man named Eli to be a leader. He was a good man, but he had two sons who were wicked. Eli allowed them to work as priestly leaders at the Tabernacle, the House of Worship. It was at this time that the Philistines attacked the God’s people and a series of great battles took place. The Philistines came in during harvest time and stole all the crops of the Hebrew people. The Hebrew people decided this had to stop, so they formed an army to attack the Canaanites. In the battle that ensued the Israelites lost 4,000 men, which led them to search for a decisive way to defeat the Canaanites. To do so the Hebrews sent some men to the Tabernacle to get the Ark of the Covenant so they might carry it with them into the next battle. The Ark of the Covenant was to remain in the Tabernacle, for it was the place where God had told Moses that He would meet with His people. It was at the Ark of the Covenant that God maintained a Mercy Seat, a place where sin could be forgiven, but the Ark was never to be taken out and carried onto a battlefield. The two sons of Eli allowed the men to take the Ark with them and to carry it into the coming fight with the Canaanites. When the Ark of the Covenant was brought among the soldiers they raised a great shout, for they felt that with God with them in the Ark they could not possibly lose.

The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, actually went to the battle along with the Ark of the Covenant. The battle took place and the Canaanites routed God’s people. Not only did the Israelites lose the battle, but they saw 32,000 men die in the fighting. The Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Canaanites and the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas were killed. When Eli was told of what happened, he fell from his seat and broke his neck - Eli was dead.

Down in the Israelite encampment was a woman who was great with child. She was the wife of Phineas, who had been killed in the battle. She heard that her husband was dead, that her brother-in-law Hophni was dead and that her father-in-law Eli was dead, that 32,000 soldiers had died and that the Ark was in the hands of the Canaanites. Suddenly, in her distress, she went into labor and gave birth to a son. The women with her did all they could to encourage her, but she was stricken with grief and in the throes of dying. Just before she did so, she told the women to call her newborn son Ichabod – which means, "the glory has departed."

The glory had departed from Israel. There was a death shroud around a wife, a death shroud around a husband, a death shroud around 32,000 soldiers, a death shroud around the once great leader Eli, and it seemed a death shroud had folded around all of Israel. The glory was gone!

Note with me three things about this incident, for Ichabod can be written over our generation as believers unless we follow the Lord as we should.

I. The Sadness in this Story

There is not one good note in this story. This was a dark, sad time because the people had disregarded the Lord.

A. They Disregarded the Help of the Lord

In other words, they took God for granted. They felt that God was automatically going to be with them and grant them victory. They never considered that their lives could so disappoint God that He might not be there for them. They had turned their back on God in their daily living, but they never considered that God might just turn His back on them in a time of need. God will never leave us nor forsake us, but He surely can and does often withhold His blessings from those who withhold their devotion from Him. I mean, just study what God says about prayer in the Bible. You will see that God does not promise to answer the prayer of a believer who is living in total rebellion against Him.

B. They Disregarded the Holiness of the Lord

They took the Ark of the Covenant and removed it from its holy place. The Ark was a gold-covered box which had special objects inside. The High Priest was to bring the blood of an animal once a year and place it upon the Ark for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. This, of course, was a prefiguring of the blood that Jesus was to shed at Calvary for all believers.The Ark was holy and never to be used other than for the purpose that God had declared. Yet, the people took the Ark out of its place and carried it into battle. They totally disregarded the holy nature of God and His Word.

Do you realize that today you can get almost anything in a box? You can get beef jerky delivered to your house once a month in a box. You can get undies in a box, a different kind every month. I know that is weird, but it is true. There is something called a watch in a box, with a chance to win a Rolex watch by subscribing. Did you know that you can get Thanksgiving in a Box? Yes, you can! The entire Thanksgiving meal comes in a box, protected with dry ice. The turkey, dressings, veggies, and even the desert can be delivered right to your front door in a box.  Why, you can even get a bed-in-a-box. Yes, a bed! You just open it, let if unfold and you have the mattress ready to sleep on – delivered to your house in a box.

Let me make you aware of something important – you can’t put God in a box! You can turn God into something like a tooth-fairy that you place under your pillow. God is not Santa Claus who will come down your chimney to bring you what you wish for. God is not a genie in a bottle to pop out upon your request to rescue you from foolishness. God is God! He is not to be toyed with.

When you misuse something it is very dangerous. Back when airplanes first began to have the capability to carry a number of people, experts decided they better take into account the danger to the occupants. One problem they had with the planes was that of birds flying into the engines. So, they came up with a plan to test out the engines of the planes. To do this someone created a canon that could fire a projectile like a bird at an engine so the engineers could test the results. They wanted to do this with as much reality as possible, so they actually went out to a chicken farm and obtained some of the chickens that had died to use in their experiments. It is told that some folks over in England heard about this and wanted to use the canon to test the windshields on their trains. The trains were getting faster and faster and birds were actually flying through windshields and endangering the engineers on the trains. So, a canon was loaned to the people in England and they set up the canon to test it on a new windshield design. When they fried the bird at the windshield, it went through the windshield, took out half the seat where the engineer would have been sitting and knocked a hole in the metal wall behind the seat. They were terribly alarmed and asked for help. Upon inspecting the canon, they were given the following advice about firing a dead chicken in the thing. “Always thaw the frozen bird before firing it.” Now, that is hilarious, isn't it?

Well, I don’t know if that actually happened, but I can tell you that anything used in a way for which it is not designed can be dangerous and embarrassing. When it comes to dealing with the Holy God, one better be sure to do so in the way that the Lord  prescribes. Handling the things of God incorrectly will result in sadness, defeat and eventually in death.

II. The Scope of this Story

We think of this as happening only to the people in Bible days. Be assured that the glory of God can depart from us in this day as well.

So, what is the glory of God? It is the power of God among His people to accomplish God’s purpose. We can say that it is clearly God’s power in the person of the Holy Spirit apparent today among His people to accomplish His purposes and for His glory. Now, let me ask you a question? Do you see that power at work in your life? Is God's mighty power at work in this church? You can see that in many places God people are in decline and leaving churches in great numbers. Why? I submit that it just might be that we have taken God’s glory for granted. We have tried to program God into our plans, rather than getting before God so obediently that He can reveal His plan to bless us to accomplish it. It is a mistake to make a human plan without God's direction and then to simply ask Him to bless it. As I have said, you can't put God in a box!

Just think of ways that Ichabod can be experienced today.

A. Ichabod can be Written Over a Nation

Ichabod can be written over a nation. We better consider that in our country – in America – seriously. When the founders began this great nation, they stated clearly that our rights come from our Creator not from our government.

In history, nation after nation has risen and fallen. From Babylon with its wonderous Hanging Gardens, to Greece with Alexander the Great striding across the world taking control of one nation after another, we have witnessed the decline of great empires. From Egypt, with its incredible pyramids, to Rome with its unstoppable armies, we observed the fall of leader after leader. Ichabod has been written over nation after nation. It can happen to us in America.

How sad is the tale of a nation that has forgotten God. Israel was crowned with the glory of her God, but in our text we see a mother cry out the words, “The Glory has departed.” Good-bye glory! One can look at history and see the ruins of those nations which once beamed with their own glory. Here and there the archeologists dig up the bones of a leader – a skull without eyes or brain – that was once viewed as invincible. To depart from God is to watch your glory depart.

I fear that America is going down the road of godlessness. Again and again in the last few years I have heard the cry for government to become the provider of all we need. That is what others tried before us and you can find the burial spots of millions of their citizens. Russia tried it and Stalin was the cause of what is estimated to be 20 million deaths. Communism, with the government guarantying citizens great wages, free healthcare, homes for everyone, free education at any school, food on every table and equality for all, ended up killing millions, most of them by starvation.

I fear that America has reached the point to reject the God of the Bible and to believe that science is god. Science created the atomic and hydrogen bombs, which are now in the hands of enemies who hate America. Science created the deadly gases being used by Assad in Syria to mercilessly kill his own citizens by the thousands. I love science and the accomplishments made through it, but science is not my god – my God is the Creator who made everything in the universe and beyond.

We have fallen in love these days with pride. I read this past week that young people are become depressed and even suicidal when they don’t get enough “likes” on their Facebook pages. Bullying on the internet has caused suicides and murder across our landscape. People will do almost anything online in order to get people to view their website or their page. The glory of self is the road to death! Pride goes before the fall.

America needs a revival. We need to come back to God, for God alone is our help in a time of trouble.

B. Ichabod can be Written Over a Church

Look back at some of our Christian denominations that once were filled with power and people, but now are a mere shadow of their former selves. I will not name them, but they are in a rapid decline – a frightening collapse. Once they preached the gospel with clarity and faith, but now they have become purveyors of modern thinking. They no longer call people to God, but they rather call for god to be like us.

C. Ichabod can be Written Over a Home

The home is the foundational institution of society. God planned it that way. He created a home before he created a government or a church. Yet, when God is left out of the home, Ichabod will soon follow – the glory will depart. In fact, that is exactly what happened in the passage we are studying today.

Sadly, the great judge Eli had failed to reign in the wickedness of his sons, and God was ready to judge his home and the nation because of it. Now understand this, no parent can fully control a child, but when a child is in full rebellion against God he or she cannot be in leadership of God’s work. Eli and the nation were not judged because the two sons of Eli were sinful, but the judgment came because Eli and the leaders did nothing to take those wayward, wicked boys out of leadership in the worship of God. No one is fully responsible for the sins of another, not even your children, but you can be sure that those children don’t stand to lead the work of God. Eli failed to correct his sons and allowed them to be priests. His home was destroyed because of it.

D. Ichabod can be Written Over a Life

Ask Samson about this fact. Samson played around with God’s power and sought to use it for his own devices.

We see this in today’s Bible reference. Look at Eli. He was once a great leader, used of God, but he allowed his commitment to God to be clouded and the divine standard to be lowered. In the end, it demanded from him his family, his nation and his life.

Listen, dear friends, we cannot play around with the things of God, the Word of the God, or the House of God. Ichabod can and will be written over our lives if we fail to seriously consider the holiness of our God.

III. The Solution to Ichabod

Perhaps you feel that the glory of God is missing in your life, you family and perhaps in yhour church. You may not have done anything openly and terribly wrong, but you just don’t sense that God’s hand is upon you as it once was. What are you to do?

Look at chapter 7 in 1 Samuel. Here we see that after Eli another person has been raised up by God to lead the people. His name is Samuel, and his mother was Hannah. When we read the story of Hannah, we discover that she was very depressed and heartbroken because she could not have a child. She had only one hope and that was to turn to God. She went to Shiloh before the Tabernacle and prayed seriously and openly for a child. She promised God that if she had a son she would give him to God for His service. Indeed, God did give her a son – the son Samuel. When he was old enough, she took him to Shiloh and gave him to the priest so that he might be raised as a servant of God. In other words, she kept her word to the Lord. When Eli died, it was Samuel who became the leader of the people. Now, notice what happened and how the glory can be restored to God’s people.

1 Samuel 7:8-13: "So the children of Israel said to Samuel, 'Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.'

9 And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.”

Note that the “hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.” When God’s people cry out to Him, and the leadership in the House of God is dedicated and serious about the things of God, great things can happen. The Glory of God can be restored, and revival can occur.


Is there anyone here today who realizes that you, that your church, that your nation, and that our world, needs a healing that can only come from God? It starts with each of us – one at a time! The songwriter penned,

“It's not my brother or my sister,

But it’s me, Oh Lord,

Standing in the need of prayer.”

Come now, let us turn again to God. Let us call upon Him to bring back the glory upon us, our families and our churches. Don’t look to someone else – answer for yourself. Is there a need for you to know more of His love, power, and direction in your life? Then, let us come to Him now.

Yet, there might be one person here today who has never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior. That is God’s requirement for you to have a relationship with Him. Turn from sin, trust Jesus as the risen Lord and Savior, and come to Him today.