Here am I: Responding to God’s call

In Amateur Theology on March 8, 2010 at 8:12 am

What do you say when God calls on you?

For most of us, that seems like a pretty theoretical question. We might think that it’s better to ask, “What would you say if God called on you?”

I hadn’t thought much about that question myself until a few years ago when I heard a sermon by pastor and author Ed Dobson. Preaching at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, he related how Abraham responded to God’s call in Genesis 22:1. “Hineni,” Abraham said, speaking the Hebrew word that means, “Here am I.”

Of course, at that point in Abraham’s encounter with God, he didn’t know what God had in store for him. He didn’t know that he would be asked to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. So, maybe it’s not surprising that he didn’t hesitate, that he was simply obedient and respectful. After all, it was God’s voice he was hearing.

When you read the rest of the story, though, you realize that Abraham wasn’t simply acknowledging that he heard God. He wasn’t just saying, “I’m here.” Instead, he was making the ultimate statement of availability. He was saying to God, “Whatever you need, I’ll do it.” He didn’t ask, “What do you have in mind?” or suggest, “Let’s talk, and I’ll see what I can do for you.” He simply said, “Here am I,” ending his response with the unspoken words, “… ready to do your will.”

For Abraham, openness to God’s call was unconditional.

Since I heard that sermon, Hineni has become foundational to my faith. We are to be willing. We are to be open. We are to be available to God’s call. We aren’t to ask “Why?” We aren’t to inquire, “What do you have in mind?” We are simply to say, “Here am I … ready to do your will.”

The trick, of course, is to embrace this attitude even before God calls – to live it in anticipation of His call. After all, God didn’t call Abraham because he wondered if Abraham would obey. He called Abraham because he knew Abraham would obey. Because Abraham lived a Hineni life even before God called. And that’s what God expects of us. (Yes, I know some of God’s chosen didn’t live Hineni before His call – Paul immediately comes to mind – but I do believe that we, as believers, should.)

Once you pay attention, you notice that the phrase “Here am I” shows up often in the Scriptures. For example, Moses said it when God spoke from the burning bush, and some translations put it in Mary’s mouth when the Lord first comes to her. And Isaiah uses it repeatedly, perhaps most notably in Isaiah 6:8, when he hears the Lord ask, “Whom shall I send?” and he replies, “Here am I. Send me.”

Of course, as with all acts of faith, this one comes with risk. Not only will this attitude make you available to God’s call, it actually might provoke and attract that call. I’ve met countless people who, once they opened their hearts to a Hineni way of life, quickly found themselves engaged in God’s work. In other words, they soon were discovering what they would be willing to do when God calls, not pondering what they might do if God calls.

One final note: As much as I believe we are expected to be submissive and obedient to God’s call, I also believe this is a two-way relationship. It’s not simply a he-asks-and-we-act paradigm. For this belief, I point to another verse from Isaiah – Isaiah 58:9. In that verse it says, “… you will call for help, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help …”

And to that cry, what will the Lord say? “Here am I.”

  1. More excellent content. I’ve been thinking today about how social media in business might be my generation’s version of the three-martini lunch, or drinks with clients after work. It consumes entirely too much time and energy, and Proverbs 15’s talk of fools feeding on “fast-food fads and fancies” really makes me think of Twitter. But hey, it’s a job. (Right?)

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