Your Church: House of God or Ichabod?
Most of us have surely heard the church building on the corner referred to as “the house of God. " The word “Ichabod" - other than the first name of the schoolmaster character in Washington Irving's “Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - was originally mentioned in Scripture. “Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!"because the ark of God had been captured, " (1Sam. 4:21). The original meaning of Ichabod is this: “the glory has departed".
Logic tells us that the word “has departed" denotes simply that there used to be glory, and now there isn't. The term originated in reference to what many refer to as “the Shekinah (SHE'KEE'NA) glory" which is the manifestation of the glory of God in the temple at Jerusalem - the place where God resided. This “Shekinah" was displayed in several ways in Scripture including the burning bush, the bright light when the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, etc. 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. It was merely an empty habitation at that point because the essence - the glory of God - was gone.
There are many references to the “glory of God" throughout Scripture. It is the direct reminder of God's power and interaction with His people. The word “glory" is one that is often misunderstood. Though most would agree that the word implies praise, honor and fame, a more complete definition includes the words splendor, magnificence and radiance. Now, apply that definition to any verse regarding “the glory of God" and it changes its meaning in a powerful way.
Today, in this Age of Grace, the glory of God is manifest through the lives of those truly serving Him. Notice: through the LIVES - NOT the buildings. Our lives are intended to form the visible manifestation of God's splendor, magnificence and radiance. Until we renew our minds to this truth, it ain't happenin’. When it does, through the ministry of a relative few, we see them as being “more holy" or “more spiritual" than the rest of us, as if they set the standard to which the rest of us can aspire. That's unfortunate for, if we are to compare ourselves with anyone, that person should be Jesus. He alone is our standard.
The Scripture refers to us, the followers of Jesus, as “living Sacrifices. " This is commonly referred to as an oxymoron (a la “Jumbo Shrimp", “Found Missing", “Microsoft Works") for a sacrifice is dead and, therefore, cannot possibly be living. Notice, however, that the phrase is not “tithing sacrifices", “preaching sacrifices" or any other kind of sacrifices. No, the term is LIVING sacrifices, denoting life, day to day, moment to moment sacrificial living. In other words, doing everything as unto the Lord God (1 Cor 10:31).
Do you get it? We, the Church - NOT the edifices, but the PEOPLE - are supposed to be the containers of the glory of God. Better yet, the DISPENSERS of the glory of God. Jesus called us “the light of the world. " Too often, even Protestants have the attitude that God is in the church house. Friends, God doesn't show up anywhere, including church services, until you get there. You bring Him WITH you! Too often, the gatherings taking place within these structures are replete with unscriptural ritualism demonstrated nowhere in Scripture, or they've become mere social clubs that rarely reveal lives that have been radically changed. The bodies in there, going through endless motions, and droning worship songs, too often offer lip service with hearts far from God. The glory has gone. The individuals, and the organization which they comprise, have become Ichabod.
So, is your church an Ichabod or is it the house of God?
It's NEITHER! God doesn't live in ANY building anywhere on the face of the earth. He lives within YOU. In fact YOU are the Ark of the New Covenant, carrying with you the very presence and power of God EVERYWHERE you go. Problem? The vast majority of those who call themselves “Christian" (literally, “a little Christ") don't believe that. Not only that, most of us have never been taught that. Instead, we've been conditioned to believe God is “out there" somewhere. We hear songs like “God is watching us" by Bette Midler and the theme from “Joan of Arcadia, “What if God were one of us?" and we base our theology on this stuff rather than the Word of God.
So, is God really within you, desiring to live THROUGH you or isn't He? Does the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead live within you or is God a liar? Will His disciples REALLY do greater things than He did or was Jesus out of His mind? The truth is, God DOES live within us and He does some pretty incredible things through those who have decided to believe that every Word of Scripture is absolute truth.
Major problem? As I see it, there are three: (A) Preachers aren't preaching this, (B) Christians are so biblically illiterate, we have no idea what's Scripture and what's from Poor Richard's Almanac and (C) We are so busy doing things the prescribed way that we are oblivious to what the Lord is wanting from us.
All this can change but it starts with a radical, life altering decision, one that every individual Believer has to make on his or her own. Don't wait for your pastor or priest to make the choice. Neither should you wait for a denomination or an edict from headquarters. YOU alone must make the choice to raise your head up from among the crowd. When the lemmings are headed west, go ahead and head east. But be warned: one man's obedience is another man's rebellion. It's Ok, you see, because this is all about you and your personal obedience to what the Father is saying to you, Spirit-to-spirit. Far too often, we have settled for Religion when it's intimate RELATIONSHIP that God desires from us. How can we get any more intimate than to allow the Creator of all things to live THROUGH us in an effort to lead people from darkness into his glorious light?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael's mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. Since 1999, he has broadcast nearly six hundred inspirational articles and a dozen booklets on subjects that will interest the thinking Christian, all designed to accelerate the process of spiritual development in God's people.
He is the founder of t. e. a. m. ministries (email@example.com). An Author, Pastoral Counselor and Teacher, his eMail broadcasts, known as “Your Town for Jesus" are reaching millions around the globe WEEKLY. Write firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to SUBSCRIBE.
A licensed/ordained minister, a Certified Workplace Chaplain, and a Professional Member of NIBIC, he has ministered in Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, College and Cowboy churches. He is also a Speaker on the Christian Speaker Network and may be available to speak to your church or Christian group