When Samuel heard his name one night, he thought Eli was calling him. He answered, “Here am I.” Eli had not called; he sent Samuel back to bed. It happened again and again. Finally, Eli said it must be the Lord, and Samuel should say next time, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.” Samuel obeyed, and marvels followed. (See 1 Samuel 3:1-10.)
Long before Samuel, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses answered in turn, when the Lord called: “Here am I” (Exodus 3:1-4; Genesis 22:11; 31:11; 46:2).
In the Hebrew Bible, what Samuel, Moses, Abraham, and Jacob said, when the Lord called, was “hineni” (pronounced “hee-NAY-ee” or “hee-nen-EE,” depending on which rabbi is reading which verse).
Besides mere presence or location, hineni suggests devotion, service, and determination. Hineni implies what Samuel said the fourth time: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Samuel was listening, and he was the Lord’s willing servant. I’m told that hineni also suggests, “This is where I take a stand. This is what I stand for.”
So I ask myself, and you could ask yourself, Is the Church just a nice place to spend time on Sunday? Or do I present myself there, as God’s willing servant? What of my prayers, my neighborhood, my home? Am I just there, or am I the Lord’s willing and obedient servant there?
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the Old Testament and related scripture in 2014. This is one such column, as previously published there.