Recovery of the Glory (continued)
Jealousy and Mercy (continued)
The Lord is also great in mercy. Perhaps Ichabod's mother was so overcome by her own sorrow that she forgot that most precious part of the Ark, the Mercy Seat. The longsuffering and grace of God were represented in an integral part of that Ark of the Covenant. Even when His people had so badly failed Him, seeming to throw away all right to a further place in His purposes, recovery was still possible, because the holiness of God had also the accompaniment of the blood-stained Mercy Seat. 'God does not cast off His people whom He foreknew' (Romans 11:2). He is not only able to take care of His own interests, but able also to bring back the glory to an undeserving people. Thank God for the Mercy Seat. The Ark came back, and more quickly than might have been thought possible. It needed no army, no rescuing party, no help at all from the Israelites. God made His presence felt in such a mighty way that those who held the Ark were glad to be rid of it, and themselves arranged for its return to Israel. 'Ichabod' was not the last word.
When Phinehas' widow expired with the pronouncement of "Ichabod," she was overlooking the fact that God had already laid His hand on a man who would be the instrument for bringing back the glory. Samuel had lived in her house. He must have been always around, and she would know him and see him often. But he was so small and insignificant that she would never expect him to influence events. He was not even a priest. If the High Priest and his two sons had gone, then it must have seemed that there was no one left to take responsibility for the interests of the Lord. So we see Samuel set over against Ichabod. The Lord had already provided Himself with this instrument of recovery - so humble and small that men took no account of him, but so wholly given over to the will of God that he could provide that priestly intercession which Eli and his son had failed to give. Here, then, is a further cause for wonder. Not only can the Lord look after His own interests, not only will He in mercy bring back the glory to His erring people, but even before the disaster He has provided Himself with the human instrument needed for the purpose. Eli's daughter-in-law knew nothing of this. The natural eye could see only tragedy - the tragedy of the departed glory. Ichabod.
What was the cause of Israel's tragic failure? In part, at least, it was due to the failure of the priesthood. We read in the story of the sad conditions in Eli's household, and we are told little about Eli himself to suggest that he exerted any spiritual influence for good in the whole situation. So it is plain that the priesthood of that day was gravely at fault. In reality, however, that breakdown was only the end of a long process, just the last stage in what had been wrong with the people of God for many years. When Joshua's days were finished, Israel passed into a period when there was no God-given leadership. Occasionally judges were raised up by the Lord, and for a time there was some semblance of order among the people, but it seldom lasted for very long.
Even more notable was the lack of priesthood. Only in the last chapters do we find mention of Levites, and then in the most depraved and lamentable connections. It would be a true comment on those times to say that there was no priest in Israel, just as much as there was no king. Even in the brighter days, when for a season leaders did arise, bringing relief and victory to a defeated people, even then there is no mention of this basic, essential, though often hidden, serving of the Lord's interests by a ministry of intercession. The reader passes from the unwholesome records of Judges into 1 Samuel (though with the inset of Ruth), only to find this ominous opening: "And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests unto the Lord, were there", which is soon followed by the further comment: "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they know not the Lord". 'Ichabod' indeed! It is always true that, when there is no vital ministry of intercession, there is no glory.
(continued with # 45)