Ichabod Crain is a fictional character of some fame in Washington Irving‘s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow“. It cannot be said with certainty, but there is evidence his disappearance from his job as schoolmaster in a small community was the result of disappointment. He was downcast from the rejection of his wedding proposal to a beautiful and wealthy woman; his superstitions, and the play upon said superstitions by the town rowdy who was his competitor and ultimate victor for the hand of the woman Ichabod desired to wed. As the story goes the horseman lost his head, Ichabod his bride, and the community its schoolmaster. The winner in Irving’s short story was Brom, the town rowdy, due in no small part to his tenacity and clever tactics.
It is not certain where Washington Irving derived the name of his protagonist for the story. It possibly came from Irving’s biblical knowledge of the grandson of Eli the High Priest and his son Phinehas’ son named Ichabod. Ichabod is referenced only twice in the Bible in regard to the infant son born to a dying woman, the wife of Phinehas. He and his brother Hophni were killed in a battle with the Philistines. They falsely believed by carrying the Ark of the Covenant into battle they could force God to protect their army because of His promise to protect the Israelites. This was a superstitious understanding of God’s promise to bless those whose hearts sought to love, follow and obey God.
The visible presence of God had hovered over the Ark as a pillar of fire at night and a cloud during the day. It was known as the glory of God. Consequently, when the Philistines captured it and removed it from Israel, the glory of the Lord departed. Ichabod means “The glory has departed from Israel”. In her sadness, Phinehas’ wife gave her newborn a name to reflect the circumstances he was born into; a country devoid of God’s glory and a home absent his mother and father.
In 1 Samuel 3, Hophni and Phinehas are criticized for engaging in illicit behavior, such as appropriating the best portion of sacrifices for themselves, and having sexual relations with the sanctuary’s serving women. The prophet Samuel confided in their father, Eli the high priest, the judgment God had told him was coming upon Eli and his family because he had not restrained his sons from evil, and his sons for their sins. When Eli heard his sons had been killed he fell backward off his chair. His neck was broken and he died fulfilling the prophetic judgment revealed from God to Samuel.
Both Irving’s fictional story and the historical biblical account reveal an important truth. Actions and beliefs have very real consequences. Results often are seen over time more than at the moment. God reveals how to avoid much of the world’s pain and heartache. And, He gives us the free will to choose His direction or ignore it. Those who keep company with falsehood and those who practice it will suffer. This is their choice, not God’s.
The importance of godly company is hard to underestimate. The importance of knowing the truth and being encouraged to follow it is literally of life and death importance. Commitment to a local fellowship of believers and participation in corporate worship as well as smaller groups of believers that unpack and encourage themselves to live the truth revealed therein is both life giving and life defending.
Does it feel like “the glory has departed” from your life? Tenacity, godly wisdom, and patience can keep that from happening. If it has happened already, try this. Seek Him privately and together with others.
Most churches at this time of year are especially prepared to welcome all who will respond to the heavenly Father’s call, “Come Home”. The glory or presence of the Lord will return!