"God’s test of Abraham is written like this: “Sometime later, God tested Abraham. He said to him,‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ Abraham replied.” Most people assume that the test is what follows: God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But I think it could also be read that the test was when He called to him. Abraham didn’t say, “What do you want?” He didn’t say, “Yes?” He answered with a statement: “Here I am.” Whatever God needs or wants, Abraham is wholly present for Him, without conditions or reservations or need for explanation.
That word, hineni—here I am—comes up two other times in the portion. When Abraham is taking Isaac up Mount Moriah, Isaac becomes aware of what they are doing, and how (crazy) it is. He knows that he is about to be the sacrifice, in the way that all kids always do when it’s about to happen. It says:
“And Isaac said to Abraham, his father, ‘My father!’ and he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ And Isaac said, ‘Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sheep for the offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘God will see to the sheep for the offering, my son.’”
Isaac doesn’t say, “Father,” he says, “My father.” Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, but he is also Isaac’s father, his personal father. And Abraham doesn’t ask, “What do you want?” He says, “Here I am.” When God asks for Abraham, Abraham is wholly present for God. When Isaac asks for Abraham, Abraham is wholly present for his son. But how can that be possible? God is asking Abraham to kill Isaac, and Isaac is asking his father to protect him.
How can Abraham be two directly opposing things at once? Hineni (Here I am) is used one more time in the story, at the most dramatic moment. “And they came to the place that God had said to him, and Abraham built there an altar and laid out the wood and bound Isaac, his son, and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham reached out his hand and took the cleaver to his son. And the Lord’s messenger called out to him from the heavens, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do nothing to him,
for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from me.’” - Jonathan Safran Foer - Here I am
In Hebrew to say I am here you would say Ani po. The difference between hineni and ani po is like the difference in English between I'm here and Here I am.
One would express location while the other the availability. To say hineni to Adonai, is to say you're there for Him. Regardless of what He'll ask or promise, fully aware that there's a possibility that He'll ask the impossible of you.
We all want and crave that close relationship with Adonai, but I wonder if we realize what that entails. That it might just mean to be split right down the middle for a long time or in some cases for the rest of your life. To be put in a position like Abraham offering his God and his son what could not be offered to both: “Here I am.”
To be close to Him is more than an awesome feeling of intimacy you get while you sing to Him and pray or meditate upon His word. It's to be there for Him.
When I was younger I thought 'Ask me anything my King, anything... I'm here for You!' But then He asked and I resented Him for it. I am fickle like that... I was too proud and thought my love was real, but it was untested. And I failed Him. Many times. I got to a point where I thought, 'Can't You ask something normal of me, like more money, or to read more, fast more, pray more, learn more. Must You always ask for what I cannot give? Send me to die for You and I will... must You ask for the impossible?' I have learned just how the rich young ruler felt when he approached Yeshua (Matt. 19:16-22). I was so sure I have done it all. That He can ask me for anything and it would be His. But He asked for that one thing that I treasured most.
It might sound unfair that He gets to ask these things.
Relax, I'm not saying that God asks the impossible out of everyone. All I'm saying is that if He calls out to you and you feel like you can tell Him, Here I am, then know He has the right to test your words. And He will. But you know what? When the test is over and you can still say Here I am, you'll hear Him say in turn I AM here for you.
The test is not easy on Him either. He risks everything when He asks you for that treasured thing. He runs the risk of losing you if you turn out to be like the rich young ruler. But maybe, just maybe, if you turn out to be like Abraham... then it's worth it.
Bat Melech בת מלך