I. THE BACKGROUND.
A. Israel was in a horrible spiritual state, and when they went went out to fight against the Philistines, they were defeated. The elders asked "Why has the Lord smitten us before our enemies?" Someone got the bright idea that if they would bring the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield, it would somehow force God to help them.
1. They had been smitten because of their sin, God had removed His presence from them.
a. The prophet Isaiah said, "God's hand is not short that He cannot save, neither is His ear heavy that He cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God.
b. They did not need the Ark of the Covenant brought into the battle, they needed to repent and seek God.
2. They were looking at the Ark of the Covenant sort of as a good luck charm.
3. It is interesting how so many people look to some object or relic as a good luck charm.
a. Some used to carry a rabbits foot with them.
b. Many Catholics used to have little statues of St. Christopher in their cars, it was said that he was the patron saint of the highways. Later it was discovered that there was no St. Christopher. Just as well, those little statues did not have any power to avert an accident anyhow.
4. The nation at this time was in a spiritual depression, and they were looking at the Ark of the Covenant much like an idol for it was a reminder of the covenant that God had made with their fathers. Whenever people turn to idols it tells us two things.
a. They have lost their consciousness of the presence of God in their midst.
b. They are trying to regain that consciousness by holding on to something that once was a manifestation of God's presence.
5. The relic can never substitute for the real thing.
B. The plan backfired.
1. When the ark came into the camp of Israel, the men let out a great shout, they thought that the presence of the Ark would assure them of victory.
2. The Philistines heard the shout and sought to find the reason, and when they learned that it was because the Israelites had brought the Ark of the Covenant of God into the battle with them, having heard of the reputation of the God of Israel, they greatly feared.
3. The fear created a rush of adrenaline and the Philistines fought harder than ever and defeated the Israelites and captured the Ark.
4. This was a very dark day for the people of Israel. Their army had been defeated, and the Ark had been taken by their enemies.
II. THE TWO WICKED SONS OF ELI THE HIGH PRIEST HAD GONE WITH THE ARK INTO THE BATTLE AND WERE SLAIN.
A. When the messenger returned from the battle with the news of the death of the two sons of Eli, and the capture of the Ark of covenant, Eli fell backwards off of his chair and broke his neck and died for he was an old man.
B. His daughter-in-law, the wife of one of his sons killed in battle, was pregnant and when she heard the news of the death of her husband and her father in law, went into labor.
1. It was a hard labor and one of the midwives said to her, "Don't fear, you have borne a son."
2. She did not regard the news, and in her dying breath she named him Ichabod, which means, the glory is departed.
C. What a sad and tragic day when the glory of God departs from a nation, or a church, or a person.
D. Israel was a nation that knew the glory of God's presence among them. The nation prospered and became strong as they followed the Lord.
1. Now they had turned from God and had been going down hill, until they had come to the place where the presence of God was no longer among them. The glory had departed.
a. The true tragedy is that they did not know it.
b. Much like Sampson, who wist not that the Spirit of God had departed from him, they had left God and had been worshipping other gods. Now in the time great need when they need God's presence and help, all they have are relics from the past. They hope that by bringing them into the battle, it will give them victory.
2. We are reminded of the message of Jesus to the church of Ephesus when He told them that they had left their first love, and commanded them to remember from whence they had fallen and repent and return to their first love, or He would remove the candlestick out of its place.
a. Where was the place of the candlestick?
b. Back in chapter one, John saw Jesus walking in the midst of the candlesticks.
c. Jesus is threatening to remove His presence from the church.
3. What happens to a church when Jesus removes His presence? Ichabod, the glory of God departs. I dare say that most churches today ought to have Ichabod written over the door.
a. All that remains are the dead relics of the past.
b. People begin to live in the past. They talk of the past glories.
c. They begin to revere the things that were once used by God and hope that these things can restore the power they once experienced.
d. We have a pastor who is in trouble with some of his congregation right now because he started to clean the junk out of the church. It had been stored in classrooms which were now needed for their expanding Sunday School. They were worthless relics of past, but to some rather sacred, so they got angry, said nasty things to the pastor and quit the church, of course in the spirit of love.
4. What happens to a nation and to a church also happens to individuals. You see them in church, but it is as if the Lord has written on their forehead, Ichabod.
a. They are always striving. They seem to carry a grudge around on their shoulder. They are always looking for something to complain about.
b. They have become contentious. And in the midst of God's rich blessings, they can find fault.
c. Their countenance has fallen, and there is no joy.
d. The glory has departed from their lives.
III. IF THE GLORY HAS DEPARTED, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SEE IT RETURN?
A. Jesus words of rebuke to the church of Ephesus was that they had left their first love.
B. Interesting enough, this was God's complaint with Israel.
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love you expressed when we were first engaged. When you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?
C. Jesus spelled out to the Ephesians, the way back to the glory of His presence.
1. Remember from whence you have fallen.
3. Repeat your first works. You were so in love with Him and the glory of His presence, that you did not consider it work, but the delight and joy of your life.