Here I Am: Samuel

Here I Am: Samuel

Here I Am: Samuel.

“So Yahweh called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  Then Eli discerned that Yahweh was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Yahweh, for your servant is listening.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then Yahweh came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.'”  (1 Samuel 3:8-10).

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.

Before Samuel was born, Hannah his mother was the barren wife of Elkanah. She was humiliated, anguished, and was considered a failure for her inability to bear a child. She and her husband were faithful Israelites, and they always traveled to Shiloh, the religious center of Israel at that time, since the Ark of the Covenant was housed there. While her husband offered a sacrifice each year, Hannah could only fast and pray in tears for a child. One year Hannah was offering her customary prayers at the altar when she made a vow to the Lord… If He would bless her with a child, she would give that child right back to the Lord to serve God for his entire lifetime. She had always been fervent in her prayers, and faithful, and she was resolved to offer this child to God. Eli the priest saw her engaging in these prayers and said: May God grant you your request. “Hannah cast her prayer as a vow, she involved herself responsibly, even sacrificially, in her prayer, for she both asked and gave. She asked for a child from God, but she also gave this child back to God.” (Peterson).

God blessed Hannah with a child, a boy named Samuel. And after three years when he was fully weaned, Hannah brought little Samuel back to Shiloh and presented him to Eli. She wanted Samuel’s earliest impressions of his boyhood to be those of the house of God. After giving Samuel up to be raised in the Tabernacle as a priest-in-training, she broke into her exuberant, spontaneous, inspired song of thanksgiving and praise. (1 Samuel 2). “When Hannah gave away that for which she had prayed most deeply and which she treasured most closely, the moment was explosive with joy. Getting her child from the Lord was a happy day; giving him to the Lord, even happier.”  (Peterson).

Sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle, Samuel heard his name called out in the middle of the night. It was so clear and unmistakable it woke him out of his sleep. “Samuel!” the voice cried out. Samuel, always ready to serve and obey Eli the priest, ran to him and said, “Here I am. Did you call me?” Eli said no, he didn’t call him, you can go back to bed. The voice called out again, and Samuel responded the same way with his customary, “Here I am.” Eli said the same thing this second time: it wasn’t me, go back to sleep. During this era of the Judges, it was a time in Israel’s history when the voice of the Lord was rare. So Samuel hadn’t heard the Lord speak and wasn’t familiar with His voice. So Samuel was unaware of the Lord trying to speak to him. After the third time, Eli finally realized Samuel wasn’t dreaming, and that the Lord was truly calling for Samuel. Samuel was hearing the Lord’s voice this whole time, but didn’t realize it. When the Lord spoke once again, “Samuel!  Samuel! Samuel responded with “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Could there be a sweeter sound for the Lord to hear? There are no better words to describe the readiness of the “Here I Am” response to God. These first words of the Lord to Samuel were difficult to hear, for they were words of judgment regarding Eli’s contemptible sons. But Samuel was faithful to relay the Lord’s words to Eli.

Hannah faithfully returned to Shiloh every year for the required sacrifice, and each time she dutifully brought a priest-like linen garment for Samuel to wear as he kept growing in size and stature. As it turned out, this first conversation between Yahweh and Samuel was only the beginning of a long lifetime of intense communication between the two. Samuel was gifted in developing a listening ear to Yahweh, and could be counted on to not only hear the Lord but also communicate His words to the people. Samuel grew into the last great judge of Israel, and he became the first mighty prophet during that era. Samuel continued to receive his training under Eli… “As Samuel grew up, Yahweh was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be trustworthy and reliable. And all Israel knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle. And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.” (1 Samuel 3:19-4:1).