There is always a battle going on for my affections. Though I try to keep my thoughts fixed on God, I’m often guilty of being distracted by the things of this world. Distractions start early in the day, usually right when I get out of bed (I’m often guilty of checking my latest game of Words with Friends before picking up my Bible). Sadly, there are times when I feel more entranced by the things of the world than the things of God. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. 1st Samuel provides a great example of what it means to be more concerned about the things of God than anything else. Immediately before these passages the Israelites suffer a defeat at the hands of the Philistines and the ark of the Lord is captured. The way Eli and Phinehas’s wife respond to this news is a model for us:
“And the man said to Eli, ‘I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.’ And he said, ‘How did it go, my son?’ He who brought the news answered and said, ‘Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.’ As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.”
Eli’s two sons were dead. I’m not a father, but I can only imagine how difficult it would be to get word that your sons have died. This is heightened in Eli’s case because it’s a sign of the Lord’s judgment upon Eli’s household (1 Sam. 2:34). Yet, it wasn’t the death of his sons that troubled Eli the most, it was the ark being captured. Scripture says that as soon as the ark was mentioned, Eli fell over and died. Eli was more concerned about the consequences of the Lord departing from Israel than he was about the death of his own two boys. The story continues…
“Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.’ But she did not answer or pay attention. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, ‘The glory has departed from Israel!’ because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.’”
Did you catch that? The terrible news sent Phinehas’s wife into labor! Once she had delivered the child, she didn’t even seem to care. All her thoughts were on the departure of the ark. She was so distraught over the glory of the Lord leaving Israel that she named the child Ichabod (“the glory has gone”). Her husband and father-in-law had both perished, but this tragedy didn’t compare to the glory of the Lord leaving Israel.
Do you have that same response to the things of God? Are you heartbroken when you sin or do you just try to drown it out with distractions? When the Lord hasn’t answered a prayer do you continue pleading for his blessing? Though we might not face the ark of the Lord leaving, we are faced with opportunities to share the gospel and we are given chances to intercede for others in prayer. Are you responding to these things rightly or are you too distracted by the things of the world? Far too often, I’m guilty of the latter. May we all be more like Eli and the wife of Phinehas in our response to the things of the Lord.