Hear and Heed: Part 4
So far, we’ve learned about the defeat of the Israelites at the hands of the Philistines and about the way the priest Eli was overcome by fear. Now we will see how the wife of Phinehas was overcome by despair: “His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, ‘Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.’ But she did not respond or pay any attention. She named the boy Ichabod, saying, ‘The Glory has departed from Israel’ – because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, ‘The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.’” (1 Samuel 4:19–22).
The name Ichabod means: “The Glory has departed from Israel.” Phinehas’ wife made her son a picture of Israel. How did this happen? Phinehas was one of the wicked sons of priest Eli. We are not told his wife’s name, just that she was pregnant and near the time of delivery. The dreadful news of the ark of God being captured and her father-in-law and husband being dead; death after death of people close to her heart. Just like what happened to priest Eli, the impact of such dreadful news was devastating. There was no spiritual armor to protect her mind and her heart. Despair overwhelmed her instantly. The text said that she could not contain her despair because of the bad news. She went into labor immediately and gave birth. Even when her attendant told her that she had given birth to a son, she did not respond except to name the child Ichabod, which is a fitting summary of this chapter filled with gloom: "The Glory of God has departed from Israel."
The word "despair" means: the complete loss or absence of hope. When hope is lost, all is lost. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, do not allow yourselves to lose hope and do not give into despair. Listen carefully to the Word of the Lord God. Hear Him speaking to your heart.
There is a story of a man who was overwhelmed with despair as he was walking along an unfamiliar road when he stumbled and literally fell into a deep dark pit. He looked up and he could see the daylight, but there was no way that he could get out. He became filled with fear and shouted for help. Soon, a doctor passed by. The man was relieved and cried, "Just what I needed. I am trapped in this deep dark pit and I cannot get out!" The Doctor nodded, wrote the man a prescription and tossed it down the hole. The man's heart sunk.
Later, a priest walked by. The man was relieved and cried, "Thank God! I am trapped in this deep dark pit, and I cannot get out!" The priest nodded, wrote the man a beautiful prayer, and tossed it down the hole for him to pray. The man's heart sunk again. So, the man in the pit was really starting to worry, especially when it was getting dark. Suddenly, there was a smiling face looking down into the pit at him. At this point, the man had very little hope left, but he stammered again, "I am trapped in this deep dark pit, and I cannot get out!" Immediately, the man with the smiling face jumped down into the pit with him. The poor despairing man was perplexed! "Why did you jump down here?" That’s when Jesus said with a kind smile, "I've been trapped down here before, and I know the WAY OUT!"
Prayers are important, of course, but sometimes, our prayers are not answered in the way we want them to be. Sometimes, the answer is "Yes!" and sometimes, the answer is "No." Sometimes, the answer is "Not now ... wait patiently upon the Lord." Sometimes, the answer is, "God has a better plan." We usually cannot even begin to imagine the greatness and the wonders that God has in store for us. But often we are impatient and want an answer right away. Our response to despair should be to remember that God has jumped into the pit with you! He is the answer to our prayers. What a friend we have in Jesus!