The Ark of the Lord was taken during battle. Israel was trounced severely. Eli’s sons were both killed. And now the report of these things returns. The result is even more death.
In Israel’s mind the worst thing that could possibly happen has! They have lost the Ark of the Lord in battle. They equate the Ark of the Lord with His presence and they have not been without the Ark since its commissioning by God in the wilderness. The Ark, to them, represents His favor.
Eli has been sitting by the gate since the Ark was taken by his sons on this journey. He knew the prophecies concerning his sons. He was probably prepared for the news of their deaths but he was NOT prepared for the news of the capture of the Ark. The fact that “his heart trembled for the Ark of God” (verse 13b) testifies that he was not confident in his own actions of letting the Ark go. He feared the outcome.
When God sent the Ark into battle there was no fear. The people were confident of the outcome and so were the priests. This time the high priest knew something the people didn’t. He knew God was displeased. The people probably recognized that they were not living as they were supposed to but Eli had had personal word from God about His displeasure and intended judgement. He KNEW there was danger in sending the Ark, not victory.
The words delivered by the survivor of the battle struck Eli full force. Not the words about Israel’s defeat or even the death of his two sons, but the words of the Ark’s capture. This reality rocked his world so fully that he fell over backwards and died.
As I stated earlier, the people ALL equated the Ark of the Lord with His presence and favor. They were lost without it. They had no idea how to remedy this situation or even if there was a remedy. All they had now was deep sorrow.
Some experienced that sorrow more personally than others. Phinehas’ wife experienced it as fully as Eli did. It caused her to go into labor and die with the words of that sorrow on her lips. Just prior to her death she named her son for her sorrow. Even the fact that the baby was a boy didn’t lift her spirits. She felt the emptiness in her heart and pronounced it upon her child; Ichabod, “The glory has departed from Israel” (verse 21b).
I have no idea how the next seven months went with Israel. Did they bow down in repentance? Did they carry on as usual? Did worship in the Tabernacle change? Ichabod would carry his reminder of this event for life. I wonder what impact on him his name had. Did he search more diligently for God? Did he feel forever separated from God because of it?
I cannot imagine being separated from God! To be bereft of His presence in my life; our relationship. I would be empty; hollowed out. Even in my lowest points in life I knew He was there and I could reach out to Him. I felt Him calling to me but it was as if I couldn’t quite reach far enough to pull myself out of the despair I had sunk into. I imagine this is what Israel was feeling that day and even more.
Did they have the assurance I had in my time of despair? Did they take comfort in what they still had of His Tabernacle? Did they try and resolve the rift that had developed? They certainly had lessons to learn in the meantime.
Father God, thank You for bringing me out of my pits of despair! It wasn’t under my own power that I was returned to solid ground. It was through relying on and trusting in You that I stopped sinking. Those desperately dark days were where our relationship was strengthened. I would say it was forged, not as ‘first made’ but sent through the fire and made so strong that NOTHING could break it. I wish Israel had ‘forged’ theirs during this dark time too.
Maybe I’m being too judgmental in my view of Israel. I’m looking at my life and thinking about how if the miracles that were done for Israel had been done for me I would NOT have ‘forgotten’ them. But Israel is more than just one lifetime. She spans generations. Each new generation has to meet God on their own. Has to decide to follow or reject Him. I have many ups and downs but it is still just me who makes that decision for my life. Although the first generation had MANY ‘lapses in memory’ when it came to trusting You. I PRAY I have not, and don’t, follow in their footsteps!
Thank You for giving me a heart for hurting people. For those of the past, present, and future. WE (they and I) should have known better than to get into some of the situation that caused so much trouble. WE (they and I) NEED to trust You. WE (they and I) MUST ‘forge’ our relationship with You. YOU are our only hope!
Holy Spirit NEVER let me get so far away that my heart is hollow and cold. Keep Your fire burning in me! Keep me close to You, no matter what I walk through. Don’t let me become an empty house!