The stories of Genesis have filled my quiet times as of late. The complexity of these narratives never fails to leave me a bit speechless. How do I begin unpacking the historical context, characters, theology, geography, and original Hebrew definitions while channeling the Holy Spirit to see what I am to learn about God in order to increase my love of Him? A strategy I have employed and have found to be effective is to identify and cling to the simple, revealed truths.
I encountered one of these simple but profoundly important truths the other day in Genesis 22. Many would argue that this chapter is one of the most important Old Testament chapters regarding salvation history. It is the chapter when Abraham exhibits a radical humble obedience through his willingness to sacrifice his promised son Isaac when asked to do so by the Lord. In the story, Isaac is spared when an angel of the Lord appears and stops the sacrifice right before its terrifying climax. Abraham’s obedience yields blessing, as the Lord swears by Himself to make Abraham’s descendants “as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashores.” (Gen 22:17)
Ready and eager
As I read through this narrative, a small phrase and the corresponding commentary struck me. In Genesis 22:1 and 22:11, Abraham has identical replies when God calls him by name: “Here I am.”
The commentary I am using to study Genesis says this about the phrase:
“Here I am” [is] the reply of someone ready and eager to accept God’s will.
This reply to God appears in other places in scripture when God calls out to the likes of Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah. (Exodus 3:4, 1 Samuel 3:4, Isaiah 6:8) It is a beautiful reminder to me of what God really needs in order to use me as an instrument of His will in the world. God does not need my holiness. He does not need my benevolent acts of charity or courage. He does not need me to stand on steps making bold proclamations. He needs me to reply with peace and trust, “Here I am,” to the situations and circumstances He places in my life.
“Here I am.” What a simple and beautiful prayer of receptivity and docility to whatever the Lord might ask of me. I have found a deep consolation that so long as I offer myself to the Lord with these same words, “Here I am,” I can be confident He will use my life in the ways He intends.
A prayer for every day
A beautiful podcast I listened to last week reminded me that grace is most accessible to us in the present moment. If we run ahead to the future to grasp and guess about what might unfold, we can often be filled with anxiety about unfulfilled desires, circumstances that seem insurmountable, or events that could take place in a way we cannot control or design. I imagine Abraham might have experienced similar emotions had he allowed himself to go ahead in his mind to the hour he was going to have to sacrifice the son he’d been promised and waited for through the years. Our pasts can have similar weight and restrict our ability to receive from God in the present moment. Imagine Moses, having fled from Egypt after killing a man, reliving his moment of wrath over and over again in his head. Without their “Here I am,” these men might not have had the grace needed to receive from the Lord the unique and specific call for their lives.
The beautiful thing is this simple prayer is not reserved for major, life-altering moments of obedience and mission. I see in my daily life countless opportunities to draw myself back to the present moment and offer myself and my will to the Father:
- When I am lying in my bed not wanting to get up and face the day (or cold tile floor) – “Here I am, Lord.”
- When I fear I have not done enough with my 27 years of life and that I won’t have enough time to create and encounter and love in all the ways I want – “Here I am, Lord.”
- When I get an email that is particularly overwhelming, frustrating, or crazy – “Here I am, Lord.”
- When I don’t want to go out of my way to serve in the little ways of unloading the dishwasher, folding the laundry, or running an errand – “Here I am, Lord.”
- When I am afraid I do not have what it takes for what is asked – “Here I am, Lord.”
Following God with the obedience and courage of Old Testament giants like Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah seems like a tall task. The beauty of the phrase “Here I am” is that it creates a little way and an accessible path for a person like me, and maybe like you, to center ourselves to the will of God and receive the grace needed to live into His call.