(Sandra and I at our 50th wedding anniversary January 2012)
“And she named the child Ichabod, saying, the glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken (1 Samuel 4:21, 22).
Most people of my generation have heard the name Ichabod from Washington Irving’s famous short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The story was set in upstate New York in the 1790’s. In the story a schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane was pursued by a phantom called the Headless Horseman. Washington Irving was one of the first American writers to gain acclaim in Europe. He also wrote the short story Rip Van Winkle. These were two of my favorite childhood stories.
Ichabod is a Bible name found in our text above. According to Strong’s Concordance it is Hebrew for “there is no glory”. In reading the entire account, we see the corruption of the Aaronic priesthood, especially of the high priest Eli's evil sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Also we read about the death of Eli. Eli himself was a faithful priest, except in his weakness of ruling his corrupt sons. Eli was the high priest, so he not only had authority as their father, but as their priest. Yet Eli failed to reign them in. He attempted to correct them when they were committing evil acts, which included having sex with women that came to the tabernacle (See 1 Samuel 2:22). Eli’s corrections were only ignored words, since he did not use his authority to remove his sons from the priesthood as he should have done.
God sent a prophet to rebuke Eli and warn him of coming judgment (1 Samuel 2:27-36). This man of God told Eli that there would be a sign to him -- that both of his sons, Phinehas and Hophni, would die on the same day. This is exactly what happened! The Philistines overran the Israelites, and the ark was taken by the Philistines, and truly the glory of the Lord was departed from Israel, which meant that God’s presence was removed from them for a time of judgment. As all this was happening, Phinehas’ wife was giving birth to the son who was to be named Ichabod, and she died giving birth to him. This was an ominous warning to Israel of much worse things to come. Earlier Jehovah had spoken to the very young prophet, Samuel that this judgment was coming “And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (1 Samuel 3:11-14).
This Old Testament example has application to us in the New Testament church. Throughout the NT, especially in the epistles, we are warned of forsaking the “Faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The little book of Jude warns of apostasy (falling away from the faith), and its consequences. Just as departing from the true way brought judgment on Eli, his sons and the nation of Israel, it brings judgment on the NT church as well. In our day there are many “ministers” of a false gospel leading people away from the true faith. They are not following the admonitions of the Lord given by Christ and the apostles to “walk in the Spirit”. Revivalists used to speak of Ichabod being written “over the doorposts” of many churches. In our day here in North America, Ichabod would have to be written on the doorposts of most churches, for the glory has departed along with the true gospel. God is not going to bless deviation from His explicit instructions and commands, rather He curses it! God says through Paul‘s inspired words “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed”(Galatians 1:6-9). It is not modern methods of preaching such as the internet, television, satellite radio, mail outs, etc. that God opposes. What God opposes is changing the gospel message! Perhaps never before in American history have we had so many who claim to be preaching the gospel, but are not really preaching the true, uncompromised, message.
The pressure to accept any religion as true as long as it has faithful followers is evident as never before. It is not ecumenism that is the major thrust now, but acceptance and working in harmony with all religions. But Christians cannot be in harmony with idolatry! The Bible, God’s inspired word, tells us clearly that there is only one savior and one true religion! This makes some people angry, but it is the truth! Jesus did not say He was one of several ways, but He said “I am the way, the truth and the life: No man cometh unto the father but by me” (John 14:6).
With this in view, why does Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren, who is perhaps the most influential pastor in the world, advocate that all the various religions of the world (whom he calls “people of faith”), work together with governments of the world to support health care, and other needs? Warren said this at Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative meeting in New York on September 26, 2008. These “people of faith” Rick Warren speaks of are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Shinto’s, etc. He regards all religious people as people of faith. But faith in what? Warren deviates dangerously from God’s word. I am not making this up! Of course, there are many other false teachers who are spreading things that are not biblical. The truth is, either we stay true to God’s word, or we have no real gospel. Think about it!
I have no doubt that those pastors and churches who follow Rick Warren’s philosophy have become Ichabod, for truly the glory of the true God, our Jehovah-Jesus, has departed from them. I do not know, nor does anyone, how much time we have left. We are certainly closer to Christ’s return than we have ever been. I think it is time to repent and declare the true gospel. Can we not see that Satan is working feverishly now? Every day we see more signs that the end is near. My friends be about the Father’s business. Endeavor to do His will daily. We that are saved are His witnesses, His ambassadors. Can your neighbors see Christ in you? Are you revealing Him, or are you just like the world? I am asking you now, but you do not have to answer to me. God is the one you must answer. Are you ready for His return? I hope so. May God bless you!