What does the word “prophecy” mean to me?
How do I believe God’s shows Himself and His ways in the 21st century?
When someone today calls themselves a “prophet,” by what criteria do I measure their words?
“I would not give much for prophetic intelligence if it does not begin, continue and end with the person, work and glory of Christ.” — H. H. Snell
“We turn to God when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.” –Charles C. West
Having worked as a nurse in a delivery room and emergency room, I have been present when women have arrived at the hospital having labor pains brought on suddenly by a traumatic event. In fact, in nursing school, during our classes on Obstetrical Nursing, we were repeatedly warned that events such as a violent accident or extremely catastrophic news or even a violent natural disaster, have been the seeming catalysts to the abrupt onset of labor in women.
As we continue our study today in
I Samuel 4, we find this phenomenon is exactly what happened to Phinehas’ wife. When she heard that both her father-in-law and husband had died, the news was devastating. However, what seemed to have the most extreme effect on this pregnant young woman was the news that the Philistines – evil, godless, tyrants – had taken off with the “Covenant Box” as the Good News Bible calls the ark of the tabernacle.
Here again there is an unnamed woman who, like Samson’s mother, has no name recorded in the Bible. Yet, she made a profound statement about the events that had just transpired in Israel. I will even go so far as to call her words, “prophetic” because they foretold what the future held.
But here’s where we often read into a passage from the Bible what we think or believe rather than what the Bible really says and I will admit, in my haste to read through the Bible at times, I’ve not only been careless by scanning some words, in addition, my interpretation of them has been way off base, too.
This young mother was clearly aware that while she was going to have a baby, she would not live to raise this child. I’ve often thought about my own grandmother who died when my dad, her youngest baby, was just 6-months-old and wondered what thoughts would be going through the mind of a mother who knew she was leaving a precious little one behind?
When the helpers told this new mother she had a son, the Bible says she spoke nothing. I can certainly understand this for sometimes we are silenced by grief and despair, as we just saw in the life of Hannah Think how Phinehas’ wife felt bringing a child into the world who had no grandfather, no father and his mother was dying, as well. At least, if you knew the world was a good place, that might help. But even more, if you knew that within the confines of your spiritual family, the Israelites, there were people who were so attached to God, they would serve as the proper influence on your child, perhaps things wouldn’t be quite so bad. But in this case, as with other Biblical mothers who named their children literally with their last breath, this mother called her child, Ichabod, which she said meant, “God’s glory has left Israel.”
And here are three critical points I have learned from this story:
1. God’s glory didn’t leave the earth, it left “Israel.” God’s glory was gone from His people. But I want to make something clear and it is said best by William J.C. White who wrote that, “God is not defeated by human failure.” Just because the Israelites forgot God and then went so far as to try and “use” Him and His holy symbols as magic tricks to get them out of trouble, didn’t mean God was defeated – not in the least.
2. Even though God’s glory left Israel, it did not mean He wasn’t still at work on earth. I love these comforting and encouraging words by Ian Thomas, “God has plans for this world, not problems. There is never a panic in heaven.” I have to tell you, it gives me a great deal of confidence to know that even when God’s people crumble in their service and dedication and God’s glory leaves their work, it doesn’t mean God isn’t working through others who we might not expect but even be critical of, and if you don’t believe this just wait until we get to the study of Cyrus the Persian and the women in his life. Never underestimate God’s ability to undo the messes His own children have created!
3. God’s work on earth moves forward despite the detours and deaths of those He has called. The inspiring Charles Wesley once said that God may ask His servants to lay down their tools but His work never stops. Even the death of Phinehas, his father and his wife didn’t stop the fact that later on in I Samuel we find Ichabod’s brother was a priest of Israel wearing the Ephod of God. Who would have thought out of such bad, good could come forth?!
For every mom, and dad too, who worry and pray for their children, even in the face of God’s glory departing from Israel, God’s face could still be seen by those who longed for a glimpse into the holiness of their Father.
In the words of Benjamin Warfield, “A firm faith in the universal providence of God is the solution of all earthly problems.” We ought to remember this! It’s not in you and me trying to put in power the person we think is right or defeating the person we think is wrong. It’s not in being on what we think is the winning side on this earth. It is, instead, being held in the arms of our Father who doesn’t panic for He has the solutions to all our problems even before they occur.
“O Creator past all telling,
You have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe;
You are the true fount of wisdom and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed on the darkness of my mind
The beam and warmth of Your light to dispel my ignorance and sin.
Instruct my speech and touch my lips with graciousness;
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn, and able to remember,
and keep me finely tuned to interpret Your word,
for You are God for ever and ever.”
St. Thomas Aquinas