The Low Ebb in Shiloh

The Turning of the Tide

The oft-used pharse, “The ups and downs” of life can be reversed for the believer to “downs and ups.” In life’s final history it will be “up” forever for the redeemed! Here, we still encounter the lows and the highs, “the low ebb before the turn of the tide.”

Under Joshua’s leadership the Canaan land was a real success story, but the days of triumph took a downward spiral to depths of defeat. Judges was marked by defeat, disgrace, departure, and defilementmingled with a few bright spots here and there. The final chapter sums it up: “There was no king (no rule) in Israel and every man did that which was right in his own eyes (anarchy).” Can things get any lower?

The eagle eye of the Almighty sees beyond the enveloping darkness to a barren woman, Hannah (grace). Elkanah had two wives Peninnah and Hannah, (contrary to the divine mind yet overruled by Jehovah) and from these adverse circumstances one of the greatest prophets in Israel is raised up, Samuel. Let us never underestimate the wonder of Divine grace that can “turn the tide.” Our God is still the God of miracles. While God never condones sin He does magnify grace. Can we learn a lesson here? Sovereignty and Grace are marvelous twins still performing miracles. In Hannah we trace the hand of the Almighty to effect recovery through a barren woman. This woman was positive, prayerful, and persistent. On the one hand we have the “low ebb” of the nation, a barren woman and a provocative Peninnah. In her barren, bitter, burdened and broken condition we learn of her spiritual goals. She prays for a man-child! Why not a child? With faith’s telescope to her eye she cried for a man-child; this was the answer for the nation’s recovery. Her vow was genuine “I will give him unto the Lord allthe days of his life.” Her battles were won in the sanctuary! This is where all battles are won! We pause, and “admire the woman but adore her God.” It must have been thrilling for Hannah to confess “for this child have I prayed and the Lord granted me my petition.” We leave this woman of faith on a high note with her amazing song attributing all to Jehovah: “For the Lord is a God of knowledge and by Him actions are weighed … the barren hath born seven.”


Samuel was placed in the Temple with a blind priest (Eli) and his corrupt and immoral sons! Negativity would be justifiable. Shiloh had become shameful and sinful. What a tragedy! But Hannah had given Samuel to the Lord and confidently placed him in the Lord’s hands, not Eli’s. What lessons unfold before us: (1) the exercise of a godly woman, (2) the patience of God toward a rebellious people and (3) the preservation and protection of a child in such defiling and deplorable conditions.


Samuel was dressed with a linen ephod, purity in the midst of impurity. “And the child did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest.” What a contrast between the defiled garments of the priests and the linen ephod of purity worm by Samuel! Moral character will ever stand in contradistinction to immoral behavior. The Bible teaches us the necessity of pure minds and pure hearts. Eli lost his moral authority by the sinful behavior of his two sons.


Year by year the mother brought a coat for Samuel, expecting growth. Mothers can play a vital role in developing lives. Samuel grew, he grew before the Lord, he grew in favor both with the Lord and in favor with men, and he grew and the Lord was with him. What a rsum to obtain! This rising generation needs caring mothers. Paul became to the Thessalonians “like a nurse that cherishes her children” (1 Thess 2:7). What an example! It is easier to criticize the young, write them off instead of caring for them. The simple quip, “They are probably not saved,” is just an easy way out as we sit in our easy chairs! We can have cold theology. It’s tragic when the practical is missing! Take them for a coffee or tea; send them an e-mail or a letter. Visit them or phone them. Give them a word in season! We have many tools available. Some are crying out for help. The pattern for all time is “All that Jesus began to do and to teach.” Let us mold young lives for God! May our God raise up Hannah-like mothers for today who are “protective, not detective”!


We observe the unfolding of a holy life in Samuel. Another has well said, “A holy vessel is a powerful weapon in the hand of God.” Samuel met this criteria! To Eli’s credit he gave good advice to young Samuel. At the fourth call Samuel answered, “Speak; for Thy servant heareth.” Can we discern His call? Are we listening to His call? There is work for all to do.


Samuel was commissioned to speak faithfully to Eli the priest, to the nation, and to Saul, and to anoint David as king in the stead of Saul. Samuel lived through perilous times in the nation’s history. Samuel prayed and supplicated for them in the darkest times. Samuel is associated with Moses and Aaron in calling upon His Name, and also Moses the great intercessor (Jer 15:1). He left behind a monumental testimony of humility, honesty, and holiness. Samuel also earned the title, “Man of God,” and was inducted into heaven’s hall of fame (Heb 11). God still raises up Hannahs and Samuels. The commission to serve God is the mission to serve others. Need presses as we think of the hospital, the sick bed, the community tragedy, the unemployed, the children, broken homes. “Others” is the watchword!


Samuel died and all Israel lamented his death. He was the link in the chain of events that led from the low ebb to the “turn of the tide,” which climaxed in David.