Here I Am: Abraham

Here I Am: Abraham

Here I Am: Abraham.

“And now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said,
Here I am.”  
(Genesis 22:1).

Hineni (Hebrew word, literal meaning “Behold, I am!” but is generally translated in Bible as “Here I am.”) In Scripture it is a response of someone to someone else asking for attention. It could be a response to God, to an angel, a response of a child to a parent, or a servant to a master. Sometimes it is even a loving response of a parent to a child. The Biblical Here I am means you have my full attention; I am at your service; I am completely available to you; whatever you want, I am all in; I am in total readiness to hear and obey you; I have no hesitation in responding to you. Most of the time in Scripture the person saying Here I am doesn’t yet know what the caller wants from him. So hineni can essentially be a statement of faith. When someone in authority initiates Here I am, such as God, it is a declaration of presence and readiness to speak or act. Generally, hineni is often stated in a pivotal moment of that person’s life. Here I am can just be a casual response to a caller, but it often is an important moment in the life of the person responding.

If we are truly children of Abraham, we should be developing the pattern of saying Here I am in our walk with God. Abraham is the Biblical champion of saying hineni, saying it three times in one chapter alone (Gen. 22). By this time he and God were building on an intimate friendship. Many years earlier, Abraham left his home in Ur at the simple urging of Yahweh, and “Abraham went forth as the Lord had spoken to him” (Gen. 12:4). When he and Sarai and his possessions finally made it to the land of Canaan, he built an altar at Bethel and “called upon the Name of Yahweh” (12:8). He made a little side trip to Egypt and returned to Bethel, and once again “called on the Name of Yahweh” (15:4). Abram was then known as “Abram of El Elyon, God Most High,” and was blessed by Melchizedek (14:19), the mysterious king and priest of Salem, soon to become Jerusalem. Yahweh then spoke to Abram in a vision and promised him a son and countless descendants. Abram took God’s words to heart, as he always did. Fast forward to the miraculous birth of his son Isaac, and the divine encounter with the Lord in respect to the doom of Sodom. Abraham and the Lord seemed to be bargaining as to Sodom’s fate at that time, and they seemed to trust each other as close friends through the whole exchange (Gen. 18). As we approach chapter 22, it’s clear that Abraham is a model of faith in God, and that he maintained, usually, an attitude of “Here I am” with Yahweh. Abraham lived with God in the spirit of ongoing availability and trust. It’s no wonder why Abraham became known in Scripture as “the friend of God” (James 2:23, Isaiah 41:8).

Several years after the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, when it seemed like God and Abraham were bosom buddies, God decided to test Abraham’s faith. God suddenly said to him, “Abraham!” And Abraham responded in his faithful way, “Here I am.” God asked Abraham to take his teenage son Isaac to a nearby mountain, Mt. Moriah. At the top of the mountain, Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac on an altar for a burnt offering. After Abraham and Sarah waited all those years for their promised child, God asked Abraham to a perplexing and horrific thing. Human sacrifice wasn’t all that uncommon, so despite his profound misgivings, Abraham obeyed God one step at a time and took Isaac to the mountain. There he made the altar, and Isaac cried out, “My father!” And Abraham answered, “Here I am, my son.” There he secured Isaac on the altar and prepared him for sacrifice. One often forgets that Isaac himself had to fully submit to God’s test. What was going on in Isaac’s mind as he was tied to the altar? What was the relationship between father and son after this difficult, agonizing scene? We do know that Abraham reconciled God’s impossible request with the fact that God could certainly raise Isaac from the dead if need be (Hebrews 11:19). How else, in fact, would Abraham’s descendants become as numberless as the stars, if Isaac’s line was cut off so soon? Following the binding of Isaac to the altar, the drama of this unforgettable scene intensifies. “And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (22:10). But the Angel of the Lord, who very well could have been the preincarnate Jesus Christ, the Messenger of Yahweh, came to Isaac’s rescue. “The Angel of the Lord had called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!” and Abraham once again, as was his habit, answered, “Here I am.” The Angel then instructed Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the boy, or do anything to him!” (22:11-12). The Angel intervened just in the nick of time, saving Isaac from being sacrificed, and confirming Abraham’s deep trust in God. The Angel then spoke to Abraham a second time, repeating the promise made to him so long ago, that there would be countless descendants in Abraham’s line. The Lord then exclaimed that, “In your seed, all the nations of earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (22:18). The Angel’s message was straight from heaven, heard loud and clear by Abraham and Isaac. A ram was then found in a thicket, and this was God’s provision for the burnt offering. Isaac, perhaps still terrified and perplexed, must have been thinking, that could have been me. But God came to the rescue. In due time, Father God would know what it was like to lose a Son, and there would be no rescue that time.