Hidden within the folds of an ancient story (found in I Samuel 2-7) lies a prophetic parallel of what we see unfolding on the stage in this very day amongst those who declare themselves the people of God. This week, I was arrested by verses in Psalm 78, which spoke of Phinehas’ widow who died in childbirth, and as I delved further into the account, the Holy Spirit began to bring understanding for today.
Their priests [Hophni and Phinehas] fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation [for the bodies came not back from the scene of battle, and the widow of Phinehas also died that day].
What a message the wife of Phineas’ life culminates in – the bringing forth of the decree, ‘the glory has departed’. This poor woman was married to an adulterous, thieving priest whose name means ‘mouth of a serpent’! One would think joining yourself to a priest of God would ensure a godly and happy marriage – but not all who are robed as priests have corresponding clean hearts. How this woman must have wept as she endured years of betrayal by her disgusting husband, and yet, in spite of all of this pain, she remained faithful to God and her dying thoughts were of the lost ark of God.
*1 Sa 4:19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, about to be delivered. And when she heard that the ark of God was captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 1Sa 4:20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, Fear not, for you have borne a son. But she did not answer or notice. 1Sa 4:21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel!–because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 1Sa 4:22 She said, The glory is gone from Israel, for the ark of God has been taken.
We do not even know her name but God used her to decree a season of judgment over His people. I believe this woman represents the nameless, faceless ones who have been ‘married to’ or on intercessory assignments for an unclean priesthood or ministries in the present-day Church. When you first came under this man of God’s leadership, you had such hopes about laboring for the Kingdom together. Then your eyes were opened as the days unfolded and God called you to stay faithful in your commitment and pray for conviction to come. While the sinful practices of those in ministry have continued without repentance, even after rebuke from fathers in the Lord (as was the case with Eli rebuking his sons), you have been weeping and carrying within your spiritual wombs the growing judgments decreed by Heaven upon those who will not repent and realign with God’s standard of holiness. And in the fullness of time, the judgments will be brought forth. You are about to be delivered and released to enter into rest.
The Philistines were pagans who had captured the ark of His presence as part of the first stages of God’s decreed judgment. It looks like that in today’s takeover bid in Church circles – ungodly men are claiming the ark of God as theirs, saying that the Bible sanctions deviant lifestyles and moreover, in certain groups claiming to be followers of Yahweh, even God Himself is purported to have undergone a sex change and now appears in print as ‘She’! Why does God allow such decay to set in unopposed? Be aware, beloved, that hidden within this seemingly disastrous decline among the ranks of those who claim to serve the God of the Bible is His plan for a change of priesthood and a translocation of the ark of His presence. God not only allows, but in fact triggers, the enemy capture of the ark in order to slay the wicked priesthood and bring the old order to an end. Part of that judgment was the permanent removal of the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh. For more than one generation after that, it dwelt in Kirjath-jearim and Samuel, the new faithful priest judged Israel.
God’s judgment unfolded in stages. First, the older, wicked order of priests must be slain and the line of Eli removed completely from service. NO longer would the DNA of this sinful line contribute to the ranks of those who served the Most High as a holy priesthood. Notice too that God was content for it to look like the ark was permanently captured and in Philistine hands, while knowing He was well able to bring judgment on the Philistine camp and then have the ark sent back where it belonged – to the land of His mourning people. In fact, it seems that the ark of God actually traveled into the territory of the people whose pagan practices had led Israel astray in order to bring judgment upon them for causing His people to stumble.
The Philistines had one of the worst of all religious practices in their day. The chief God of the Philistines was Dagon, the god of fertility and crops, both of which the Philistines saw as critical to their existence. The root word of Dagon is “dag” meaning “corn” or “cereal”, so they saw the necessity of frequent sacrifice to this god as essential to their people’s survival. Consequently, they paid homage to Dagon and like those who occupied much of the land, child sacrifice was very much a normal part of their lives. The Philistines also worshipped Ashtoroth, considered the wife of Dagon, and both male and female temple prostitutes were available to service those who came to offer sacrifices. Religious rites involving unclean sexual practices were considered worship to these deities/demons.
It is into this vile cultural atmosphere that the ark of God, carrying the tablets given to Moses and the rod of Aaron, was ferried. The Philistines claimed it for themselves, not realizing that they were in effect bringing judgment upon themselves. Considering the vile sexual practices of their religion, the resulting boils and hemorrhoids poured out upon them were in the exact parts of their bodies which they had defiled by their pagan lifestyles.
It is difficult to get one’s mind around the fact that God’s people had sunk to such lows that they were now defiling themselves by the same disgusting sexual practices as the Philistines. Yet, we see the same amongst some so-called believers today. In fact, the word translated as ‘whoremonger’ or fornicators’ in Rev 21:8 (which lists those who will not enter the gates of Heaven) is ‘pornos’, which actually means ‘a male prostitute’ and is the root of the word ‘pornography’. In the official church system, we see the eroding of moral boundaries; sexual practices declared to be an abomination in the Word being declared not only acceptable but normal amongst vast swathes of church groups, and it seems the ark of God has been carried away captive into their midst. However, know that hidden within this disturbing development lies both the imminent judgment of God upon these groups that have set the holy ark of God in their midst, and the striking down of the wicked members of the priesthood. One cannot win a battle against a Philistine enemy, if one is also guilty of sexual sin. In fact, God actually set up the whole battle in order to draw the wicked priesthood out into the midst of the battle, so He could judge both them and the Philistines.
The Bible speaks of the great falling away that shall happen in the end times; the great going into apostasy, and of course, those who do so, go into spiritual death. A vast number of men fell to the ground that day, as they tried to fight their enemy with compromised morals and unclean hearts. Darkness cannot cast out darkness. What we see happening across the world at this time is those with Philistine hearts gathering together as they dance around the captured Ark of the Covenant. The tares are separating from the wheat. 1Sa 2:12 tells us that ‘the sons of Eli were base and worthless; they did not know or regard the Lord’. KJV says they were ‘sons of Belial’, so they were tares, wicked unbelieving men in priestly robes going through the motions of serving God, but stealing the fat of the offering and raping the women who came to worship. They took no notice of their father’s rebuke, but continued in blatant sin:
1 Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old, and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel and how they lay with the women who served at the door of the Tent of Meeting. 1Sa 2:23 And he said to them, Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 1Sa 2:24 No, my sons; it is no good report which I hear the Lord’s people spreading abroad. 1Sa 2:25 If one man wrongs another, God will mediate for him; but if a man wrongs the Lord, who shall intercede for him? Yet they did not listen to their father, for it was the Lord’s will to slay them.
After Eli mildly rebuked his sons, God sent someone with a word of warning to Eli. He told him that he honored his sons above God. That means his sons were idols in his life. Judgment must begin with the house of God. God has been weighing hearts for some time now and knows those who have hardened their hearts and blocked their ears. They love their sin and their idols and justify their actions. The only course for a righteous God is judgment in His house, as He told Eli:
1 Sa 2:29 Why then do you kick [trample upon, treat with contempt] My sacrifice and My offering which I commanded, and honor your sons above Me by fattening yourselves upon the choicest part of every offering of My people Israel? 1Sa 2:30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, says, I did promise that your house and that of your father [forefather Aaron] should go in and out before Me forever. But now the Lord says, Be it far from Me. For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed…. 1Sa 2:34 And what befalls your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be a sign to you–in one day they both shall die. 1Sa 2:35 And I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest (Priest), who shall do according to what is in My heart and mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed (Anointed) forever.
Then Samuel repeated the same decree of judgment and shortly thereafter, it was carried out. 4000 men were killed in the first round of the battle with the Philistines and the Israelites called for the ark to be brought into their midst. This was not a normal occurrence when they went out to battle, but they basically demanded that God Himself show up and give them victory – such was their pride and blindness concerning their true condition and the reason for their failure. Another 30,000 men were subsequently slaughtered, including Eli’s sons. You know, we often gloss over these numbers, but I want you to just digest the enormity of this defeat. We do not even hear of such casualty figures in modern-day battles. At the worst, 1,000 might be killed in one day. Imagine how many women became widows as a result of that presumptuous battle with the Philistines after demanding God work on their behalf.
To be totally honest, so far, the righteous men amongst Believer’s ranks in our day appear to have been losing the battle at the gate, both in the courts and in church boardrooms, against invasion of Philistine moral standards in the modern-day Church belief-systems. Is it perhaps because the church as a whole has not repented of the love of the self-same idols as the rest of the pagan culture? Is it because we presumptuously throw down the gauntlet and demand God show up and bring victory in the battle, when we have not conquered these very giants in our own hearts? Let us learn as intercessors not to make the same mistakes in battling the deluge of Philistine practices sweeping into the church. Let us look at the pattern of judgment unfolding in this account and learn from it.
1 Sa 6:1 the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
In the Philistine camp, they shift the ark from one city to another, effectively bringing judgment on each city. In today’s terms, those cities represent causes being championed by the ungodly, who declare the God in Heaven not only sanctions, but champions their vile behavior. And all this behaviour is found amongst the religious practices of the ancient Philistines – the murder of the unborn and young children; the practice of sexual vice which the Word clearly calls an abomination; cannibalism (which pagan tribes practiced after battle victories, believing it gave them strength) and the vile list goes on – 5 cities, 5 causes, all appointed for judgment in their flesh and death.
The timing of 7 months is significant as a prophetic type. There are 7 months between Passover and Tabernacles; seven months between the acceptable sacrifice for sin and the feasting with God’s presence in the midst. After 7 months in enemy territory, the ark was first returned to Beth-Shemesh, house of the sun, with a guilt offering. How the people of God celebrated its return, but the course of judgment for presumptuous sin was not over. There God killed 70 Israelite men for looking into the ark – killing those who didn’t operate in the fear of the Lord. The sun provides natural light and the men of this house of the sun could be seen as representing those who are led by the natural and their own sight and understanding, as opposed to walking in the spirit. They reject the presence of the ark in their midst, rather than repenting for their sin. Some people would rather walk by natural light than change and experience God’s presence. So the ark was sent to Kirjath-jearim, where it remained for 20 years, under the care of Eleazer:
1 Sa 7:1 So the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the Lord and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to have charge of the ark of the Lord.
Abinadab means ‘the house of those who offer themselves willingly’. God moved the Ark of the Covenant out of the clutches of the base and sinful priesthood, past the house of those who were led by their natural senses and the light of this world, into the house of those completely surrendered to the Lord. There is a prophetic picture playing out in this change of the ark’s resting place:
Psa 110:3 Your people will offer themselves willingly in the day of Your power, in the beauty of holiness and in holy array out of the womb of the morning; to You [will spring forth] Your young men, who are as the dew.
It has been a long dark night with an ungodly priesthood in the last while, but God is separating the tares from the wheat in order to destroy them, and the company who offer themselves willingly is then appointed the presence of the glory of God in their midst. Kiriath-jearim means ’the city or gathering place of the honeycomb’, in other words the place of revelation which brightens the eyes; the place where, bathed in His light, we receive revelation:
Psa 36:9 For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.
Eleazer means ‘the God who surrounds, protects and helps’. He is a picture of a consecrated, prepared priesthood who find the Name of the Lord to be a strong tower; those who are hidden in Him, under the shadow of His wings, and in this place, regularly feast on the abundance of His house:
Psa 36:7 How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge and put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. Psa 36:8 They relish and feast on the abundance of Your house; and You cause them to drink of the stream of Your pleasures. Psa 36:9 For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.
It is not the light of the sun that these ones walk by, but His light. The word for ‘stream’ mentioned here also means ‘mineshaft’, indicating a digging deep for the treasures of revelation, and comes from the root word meaning ‘to inherit, or bequeath and distribute’. In other words, those who surrender themselves fully and offer themselves willingly will find themselves feasting and partaking of the abundant portion of the revelation of Christ they are destined to inherit. Their hunger for more of Him will be fully satisfied.
1 Sa 7:2 And the ark remained in Kiriath-jearim a very long time [nearly 100 years, through Samuel’s entire judgeship, Saul ’s reign, and well into David’s, when it was brought to Jerusalem]. For it was twenty years before all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
For 20 years, Eleazer protects the ark and the house of Abinadab is filled with the manifest presence of God. However, during this time, the people of Israel are still serving the Philistine gods, which involved gross sexual immorality and child sacrifice. Within Abinadab’s house is holiness to the Lord. Outside, in the general population, there is idolatry and wickedness. After this, in the 21st year of Ichabod, Samuel calls all Israel to Mizpah (watchtower) and leads them to fast and repent.
1 Sa 7:3 Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth [female deities] from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. 1Sa 7:4 So the Israelites put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. 1Sa 7:5 Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the Lord for you. 1Sa 7:6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah.
And then, after this wholehearted repentance, God immediately gave His people victory against the Philistines who attacked them at this place. What a clever plan – He initiated this judgment cycle by using the Philistine army to draw out a sinful priesthood for judgment, and then He used a repentant Israel to draw out the Philistine army for judgment. 21 years is 3 cycles of 7; the cycle of separation, cleansing and deliverance are complete, but the man Ichabod remains in their midst as a sign and reminder of what happens when God’s people compromise their integrity before the wicked. And the ark of His presence remains for another whole generation in the house of those who have offered themselves willingly. In this place, revelation and heavenly light and the sweet honey of God’s wisdom are always available.
In this month of Elul, we have the opportunity to decide which company we wish to be found in. We do not want to be amongst those who fall on the battlefield, so let us examine our hearts for traces of love for the vile idols of the worldly culture we are surrounded by. We must conquer the enemy within before we can begin to get victory over the enemy without. Let God deal with those who claim He supports their unholy causes. We must also determine not to be those who walk by the light of our natural senses and the might of human intellect, for then we will be prone to presumptuous sin, as the men of Beth-shemesh were. Let us rather be numbered amongst those who offer themselves willingly; a faithful, consecrated priesthood who walks in the fear of the Lord, that in the appointed time, we may be found in the place where the manifest presence of God comes to rest and the honey of heavenly revelation and understanding flows without ceasing.
Rev 22:11 He who is unrighteous (unjust, wicked), let him be unrighteous still; and he who is filthy (vile, impure), let him be filthy still; and he who is righteous (just, upright, in right standing with God), let him do right still; and he who is holy, let him be holy still. Rev 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.