hee-NEY-nee – Genesis 22

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There are some words in the original language that make you laugh because of the way they sound on English ears. However, this theologically rich word in the story of Abraham and Isaac will also make you cry. It means “Here I am” or “I behold.” You respond that you are attentive or state what you see or know. Are you ready to answer the call?

You Know It

You likely have already come across this story once or twice in your life. God calls out to Abraham to give up his son, sacrifice him on an altar. How much have you dug into the story? If you begin for a moment to think this is a passage of God asking for child sacrifice, you’ve given it too shallow attention. God calls out to Abraham… you need to say it like you’re reading it in Hebrew with a “god-like voice.” Go ahead, say it out loud, “A-bra-am” (we English speakers add the h). You should have had some wall shaking with the, so imagine you get that kind of greeting in the middle of the night. Your response? A weak and timid, “Here I am.” But in Hebrew you’d say, “hee-NEY-nee.” Go on, say it out loud you’re scared out of your mind and trembling. You know the feeling.

Here I Am

Abraham says, “Here I am.” Before the Lord, he responds by saying in his culture’s fashion, that he is present to God. But is he? God wants to make sure that Abraham knows what it means to walk before the Lord. It is not that God does not know how Abraham will respond, but Abraham does not know how far he himself will go. Is Abraham always before the Lord? Or is something in the way? Would Abraham put Isaac before the Lord?

Abraham and Isaac are climbing up the mountain, and Isaac calls ahead to his dad as he leads them, (picking up in verse 7) “Father?” “Hee-NEY-nee, my son.” I am listening to you my boy, I hear you. Isaac continues, “Hee-NEY” I see, “the wood, and the fire, where is the lamb for sacrifice?” What do these two see? Are they looking at the same things? Abraham says that God will provide the sacrifice–the writer of Hebrews says that Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead even if Isaac was the “lamb” provided (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Skipping forward to verse 11, the knife in the air ready to strike Isaac and the angel calls out. Abraham responds, “hee-NEY-nee.” Here I am, I’m ready, I’d give up everything to follow, I trust you. Abraham is at the moment of decision, perhaps even past it and restrained from killing Isaac only by the same powerful voice that called before. And as Abraham is made aware of his own presence before the Lord, that there is nothing between him and God, including Isaac on whom so much hope and promise rests– hee-NEY! Behold (verse 13) there is a ram. God provides.

Are you there?

So, if God calls you can you say, “Here I am”? Are you truly there before the Lord, or is something in between you? It is a simply thing to allow God’s blessings to get in the way of our relationship with God. A song on the radio puts it this way: “Help me want to Healer, more than the healing. Help me want the Giver, more than the giving. Help me want the Savior, more than the saving.” How desperate was Abraham for a son? His dream of 100 years was not worth more than his relationship with the God who called him. May we find the faith to live so boldly.

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