Reflecting on 1 Samuel 4 and following, I was struck by Israel’s presuming on God and what resulted. This story relates to what is going on in our world, and the response and role of God’s people, Jesus’ church.
When Israel lost the battle against the Philistines, they asked the right question, “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us?” (1 Sam 4:3)
BUT they did not wait to hear God’s answer. No self-reflection. No humility.
Instead, the prideful presumption of declaration. “Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant” into battle “so that it may save us.”
They took the visible symbol of God’s invisible Ruling Presence into battle, believing it would defeat their enemies. God was now definitely with them, on their side. Victory was assured!
BUT, the Invisible Reality, of which the material symbol spoke, was not there: “Ichabod” – “the glory has departed!” (1 Sam 4:21). God withdrew his presence, thus his power.
And they did not know it! God would NOT be presumed upon. God would NOT be used for their purpose. God would NOT be coerced into doing their will simply because they possessed the ark. So, the Philistines defeated them, again, and captured the ark.
Therein lay Israel’s presumption: The ideology of the ark, which blinded them.
They trusted in the earthly symbol of rule, not in the heavenly Person and Presence that it represented. It’s the idolatry of what is seen, not the true worship of the true God. Human nature lusts for a visible king, a tall Saul as heroic leader to champion our cause. In so doing, in effect, we reject God’s invisible Kingship, which refuses to be used ‘on tap’ to fight our battles.
The ark was captured because it had ALREADY been captured by Israel’s ideological presumption. THAT offended God. THAT blinded them. THAT, unbeknown to them, is what emptied the outward form of its inner glory and power. THAT is Ichabod reality.
Reality is something we run into when we are wrong.
Only when Israel was defeated and the ark captured by the Philistines were their eyes opened to reality. BUT, they denied it. Refused to acknowledge it, to repent, to ask what they asked the first time round: “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us?” In contrast, the old priest, Eli, understood what it meant and fell backwards off his chair in utter shock of Ichabod. He broke his neck and died.
How blind are those who refuse to see! It took twenty years (1 Sam 7:2) for “all the people of Israel” to mourn and seek God for the return of his Presence. Yes, sadly, twenty years of desperation to come to humility and repentance! To face Ichabod reality.
Paradoxically, God’s presence ‘returned’ to the ark when the Philistines placed it in their temple. They only saw THAT reality by its effects: The next morning they found Dagon, their national god, face down on the floor before (in homage of) the ark.
They then located the ark in other places. But wherever it went The Presence manifested in defeat of the Philistine gods. Eventually, in desperation, they shipped the ark across the border! God’s victory, ironically, was not through his people, but apart from them, despite them, in rebuke of them!
Therefore… what can we learn from this?
How do our declarations presume on God?
How does the Church (try to) use God for its own purposes? How do we ‘capture’ God in symbols of earthly power (’state-capture’) to fight our battles?
How does ideology/idolatry of power blind us? “Just bow down to me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth” (Luke 4:5-7). “What will it profit a person if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” (Matt 16:26).
How can we identify and be delivered from ideological blindness?
How do we honour, receive and live by God’s invisible Kingship more than reliance on heroic leadership in visible government?
How do we let GOD be God, and not play God?
How do we know when we’re operating in ‘ichabod’, a form of godliness emptied of its power? Will it take twenty years of suffering desperation before we face up to it?
How can we keep humility and integrity with God – true worship of the true God – so that our outward forms of godliness have the power of God’s indwelling presence, for which they were made and meant?
Those who have ears to hear, hear what God’s Spirit is saying to Jesus’ church and world.
6 thoughts on “When we Presume on God – Ichabod”
Great reflection for me for the church today. The heart of God and guiding our hearts too The discourse in Matthew 23 is simulator about the temple, the place, the tithes and no knowledge or life of the values of Father God’s heart focus on mercy, justice, and faith. Jesus speaks of a bankrupt people, bankrupt individuals without mercy, kindness, justice but they thought they had all the essentials and rights but so wrong. Lord help us, Lord help me. Turn our hearts to the service of what the Father’s Love came for and Christ died for and Heaven’s Kingdom is coming back for. Thanks and good stuff
Thanks so much Ron.
I cannot agree with you more regarding Matthew 23 and Jesus’ prophetic challenge. It does inform us in terms of doing church. Indeed, Lord, help us, and have mercy on us
Good piece, particularly applicable to our time, with church and state.
Thank you Veroni. One prays that folk will have ears to hear and turn!
I get your perspective of ‘Israel’s presuming on God’, but more accurately the elders of Israel committed an unholy, act of blasphemy by trying to exploit the ark (in idolatry) to succeed against the Philistine enslavement. Reminds one of the ‘look and live’ brazen serpent. Eli’s heart was anxious about the ark of God, but never about the reverence of and love for God, though God sent two different prophets to woo his heart back to Himself. I believe if Eli had taken a real step toward God, that God would have taken ten steps toward Eli. Where’s the tears? Ichabod came well before the birth of Ichabod. I’m unqualified to evaluate the church. “The response and role of God’s people, Jesus’ church” has always been to surrender to Jesus in all things and receive His initiatives for His kingdom.
Israel asked the wrong question. Every time we/they blame God, our blindness/delusion multiplies. The devil labored to coerce Job to blame God.
The elders of Israel wouldn’t stoop to place their faces in the dirt and ask God for help. Four thousand slaughtered men, gave them a strategy ‘to take the ark’ which brought the slaughter of thirty thousand more men.
The Philistines had more respect for the God ‘who struck the Egyptians’ than the opportunistic elders of Israel.
Some modern declarations sound like repackaged positive faith confession. At the beginning of many aberrant practices/movements can be found genuine, God-inspired, powerful guidance/revelation which should be valued. Biblical and church history seem to show that there isn’t anything that we can’t screw up through pride (or one its children – greed). May God grant through His mercy and grace the removal of every seed of doubt/unbelief from our hearts to maintain intimacy with Jesus.
I’m cautious to not develop any theology based on a biblical quotation of Satan. I understand that he is a notorious liar.
How can we identify and be delivered from ideological blindness? Maybe by staying nuts-in-love-with Jesus. His opinions are the only ones worth allowing into our hearts.
How do we let GOD be God, and not play God? Maybe by becoming hoarse crying out for the reception of the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. Maybe a ministry model of exalting Jesus. Allowing an atmosphere wherein the Holy Spirit can come/remain as we stay out of His way. Jesus gets the credit. Jeremiah 6:16
How do we know when we’re operating in ‘ichabod’, a form of godliness emptied of its power? Will it take twenty years of suffering desperation before we face up to it? We’ll have a lauded program with categorization, comparisons, competition and jealousies. Maybe with an inordinate admiration for a ‘leader’ and with no real life, love and grace from God flowing through His children. Twenty years? I don’t know that we’ve been emptied of its power? Deception/delusion is tricky business. I believe that Jesus runs a 24 hour Redemption Service. He is busy doing a lot of things in many places. Jesus does all things well! For unfaithfulness, God came against the tabernacle at Shiloh and destroyed two temples in Jerusalem and they didn’t have the unfathomable riches of the New Testament, the gospel, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the power of the cross or the blood of Jesus. No small group or nation will be preserved if they don’t maintain intimacy with Jesus. In love for God – swift and complete compliance (obedience) when God whispers is a good thing. Let our carnality be carved off. Let it go. If we find parts of our humanity getting in the way of Godly intimacy, cut them off, let them go.
In the presence of God or walking under His felt grace, I have faith. Without those things, I have a confidence in God’s faithfulness and His goodness and that seems like another kind of faith.
I believe that the Spirit of Truth has always nudged the conscience of every human being to do the right thing. That He still strives with us. For the believer, one of our anointings is described in I John 2:27. Blessed be the Lord Jesus. Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I agree with everything that you wrote. I shared a few thoughts from a different perspective for consideration. God is good. May the Lord bless you.
Thanks Kevin for your response and reflections. You have obviously thought long and hard about this… appreciate it!