Ichabod (EH’CA’VOD) – strange word for a title. Most of us are familiar with
this word only as the first name chosen by Washington Irving for his bumpkin
character in the tale of “The Headless Horseman”. It really deserves much
more recognition than it gets. I’d like to discuss it a bit and see if it
doesn’t deserve some place in our vocabulary.
My father had a long-time, dear friend named Harold Lyman. Harold was a full
time evangelist. He was invited several times to hold service in my father’s
assigned churches. I grew up with a strong admiration for this dedicated man
and his confident and caring manner of spreading the gospel. He liked to
compare pastors and evangelists thusly – “A minister’s job is to comfort the
afflicted; an evangelist’s job is to afflict the comfortable.”
One of the ways that Harold used to afflict the comfortable was to remind them
of the ways in which Christians can become shallow and/or miss the real
meanings and foundations of the faith. I remember him making a statement in
one of his sermons something to the effect of “If that’s all our church means
to us then we might as well nail the door closed and hang a sign that says
As a teen-ager, this phrase stuck with me because it was a word I had never
heard used in normal conversation or writing. As I got older, I became more
aware of the word and its implications and more and more aware of how often it
fit into common church situations.
To begin with, let’s take a look at this word Ichabod. It is an anglicized
form of an old Hebrew word. Upon checking secular dictionaries, the first
thing one will discover that the shorter and more abridged versions don’t even
include it. In a larger, more comprehensive volume, we can find a short
definition consisting of an admission of not knowing its exact, original
definition and a meaning of “no glory”. The original meaning to those who are
aware of the ways of God is “the glory has gone”. A little investigation
easily shows why it is a mystery to those who are apart from knowledge of the
Divine and His ways.
“Has gone” denotes that action has taken place. There used to be glory, and
now there isn’t. The term originated in reference to the Shekinah
(SHE’KEE’NA) which is the manifestation of the glory of God in the temple at
Jerusalem. Shekinah was displayed in several ways throughout scripture – the
burning bush, the bright light when the angels announced the birth of Christ
to the shepherds, and others. The Shekinah was only present when the Ark of
the Covenant was in its proper place, in the Holy of Holies. Historically,
whenever the Ark was not in the temple, the temple was said to be Ichabod.
The real substance and meaning of the temple was missing. The essence (glory)
was gone. We could spend hours and years discussing the significance of the
Ark of the Covenant, both in history and in coming prophecy, but our present
focus is on conditions when it is absent.
There are many references to the “glory of God” throughout scripture.
Connotation and denotation of the references vary somewhat, but the Shekinah
is the most awesome and powerful of all such manifestations. It is the direct
reminder of God’s power and interaction with His people.
The word “glory” is one that is often misunderstood. How many know the
literal meaning of the word? I have asked several people in the last few
days, and none of them had a grasp of its significance. Most all of us are
aware of the meaning which includes praise, honor and fame, but did you know
that a more complete definition includes the words splendor, magnificence and
radiance. Read any passage regarding the glory of God with these words in
mind. How has the significance changed? Surprising isn’t it?
So, why was this term Ichabod applied in a modern day sermon about modern day
Christianity. The glory of God, in our Age of Grace, is manifest by the lives
of those truly serving Him. These dedicated lives truly complement all of
creation and form the visible manifestation of God’s splendor, magnificence
So many times we are apt to let the dedication slip. Church becomes a social
club instead of an earthly means of worship and spiritual edification.
Christian works which are born as evidence of faith become mere acts for the
notice of others or for a salve to the conscience. The bodies are there,
going through endless motions, becoming empty shells. The glory has gone.
The persons, and the organization which they comprise ARE Ichabod.
I have purposely omitted the myriad of scriptural references that could
accompany this discussion with the hope that we will all scour our textbook
and discover the important (and thrilling) aspects of God’s glory, as it is in
the Covenant, as it applies to the Age of Grace, and as it will be for
believers for evermore.
In older days, a common way to refer to a person’s physical death was to say
“Gone to glory.” It is a little sad that such reference has fallen into
disuse. It provides a positive view of what happens to a Christian when that
transition time arrives. Not only will we go to glory, but, when the Age is
completed, we will be an integral and everlasting part of that glory. The
term Ichabod will become as extinct as the evil which created its necessity.
“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it
together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:5)