There is a powerful word in Hebrew that sums up three words in English. The word is Hineni (הנני), which means “Here I am!” But you’ve got to watch out how you say it, because it is a way of expressing total readiness to give oneself – it’s an offer of total availability.
When God called out to Moses from the burning bush, Moses replied, “Hineni!” And you know what assignment he was given, and what happened next. When God approached Abraham to ask him to offer his only son as a sacrifice, Abraham responded, “Hineni!” not knowing what God was about to ask. God called out to the young boy Samuel three times before Samuel finally responded, “Hineni! I’m listening!” Many hundreds of years later, when God asked who would go for him in Isaiah 6, and the prophet willingly offered himself with a cry of “Hineni!” Send me!”
It can be used by family members, ready to be fully available and ready to pay attention, or ready to obey instructions. A bit like turning up and reporting for duty. Some translations include a “Behold” in the “here am I” statement, emphasising that they are present and ready for action. It is often children saying it as an expression of readiness to submit to their parents’ requests, although not exclusively.
It is, of course, the appropriate way to respond to God whenever he calls. His wish should be our command.
But God often says it of himself, when announcing what he is going to do. Often they are very gracious acts that cost him dearly. Interestingly, the very first one is bringing the flood – we cannot imagine how much that must have hurt him to do. But God also says “Hineni” when he is announcing a covenant he will make, the brunt of which he would always end up bearing. It appears many times in the prophetic writings, often translated, “Behold, I will…” But it is more like, “Behold! Here I am, doing this thing!”
God is our ever-present help, as David reminds us in Psalm 46, and there are multiple times throughout scripture where we read the question, “What can I do for you?” As ridiculous as it might seem, God actually makes himself available to us, and has shown that he is ready to pay the highest cost – even the life of his only Son. He invites us to share our requests and needs with him, and is always listening to our cry. “Hineni” – “Here I am”, the Great I Am stoops to assure us. He hears us, he sees us, he knows our struggle, and he is always there. He is mighty, he is our rescuer, and the dread warrior by our side. He promises to listen to our prayers and to answer, according to his will – the very best and perfect decision will be made.
There is a verse buried in the David and Jonathan saga, in which Jonathan promises his beleaguered best friend, “Tell me what your soul desires, and I will do it for you” (1 Sam 20:4). It caught my attention, because it is the same kind of devoted readiness as the shout of “Hineni!” Sometimes, I believe that the Lord would whisper this in our ear. As breathtaking as that might sound, it happens! God says it to Solomon, and Yeshua says it to people that he met in his earthly ministry sometimes. “What would you like me to do for you?”
But then, I thought that I wanted to ask the Lord the same question: “What is on your heart, Lord? What do you desire? And I will do whatever you ask”. Knowing God, that is a dangerous promise to make. He does ask people to do some pretty wild things. But it’s always totally worth it.
God has already shown his great willingness, devotion, and availability to us as was perfectly demonstrated on the cross. He is permanently listening to whatever we have to say or ask for, but do we shrink back from unconditionally responding to his call and his requests of us?
This calls for love. This calls for devotion. Availability, and willingness to sacrifice for the other. God is devoted to us, but will he find unconditional devotion and readiness to pay the cost in us? What if God was to call your name out loud today? Are you ready to offer yourself to his service, not even knowing what it might be? We don’t have to wait until we hear an audible call, we can just report for duty as we come into his presence, and tell him we’re ready to do his will. Ready for action, present and correct.
Here I am, Lord! Hineni! Send me!