To date, it is the most distinct time I can remember God calling me, rousing me out of a deep sleep, to do something.
It was just a little after 4 AM. I woke suddenly, sleepy. The Lord stirred me to get up, to go into the living room, so I did. I sat on the sofa, nearly unable to open my eyes. The room was chilled; I reached for a throw and wrapped it around myself. “Okay,” I prayed. “I’m here.”
Within moments God impressed upon me to pray for a woman I barely knew. I remember questioning this order, but only for the slightest of seconds. The woman was someone I’d met earlier that year, in the summer months. We were in the same industry—Christian publication—but not in the same area. She lived no more than two miles from my home, but our paths had crossed but once.
I began to pray. Not knowing her, I hardly knew what to pray, so I implored of the Lord, “What do you want me to pray, Lord?” He whispered to my spirit, “Focus.”
What I didn’t know until later was at the very moment God was telling me to pray for focus to come to this woman, she was being pursued by a would-be robber. As I was calling for “focus” in her life, the Spirit of the Living God was whispering to her as she made her getaway to safety, “Focus, Kathleen. Focus.”
She is now my best friend.
When God Calls
There are several instances in the Bible of God calling to the hearts of people and those people responding.
Genesis 46 continues the story of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham. He had encountered God in a place he called Bethel (House of God) while on the run from his twin, Esau. He had lived with his mother’s family; married two cousins (sisters) had two concubines, twelve sons and at least one daughter. One of his sons, Joseph, had been kidnapped by his own brothers and had risen to the ranks of governor in Egypt. With famine in the land of Jacob, it was time to move from home and head down to Joseph’s adopted country where he would be cared for until he died.
So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!"
"Here I am," he replied.
"I am God, the God of your father," he said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes." (Gen. 46:1-4)
I find it interesting that God does not address himself as Jacob’s God, but rather the God of his father, Isaac. It’s as if the relationship between Jacob (also called Israel) and God had been surface at best. While in a time of worship, God called out to the one on whose seed He would build His people, and Jacob immediately cried out, “Here I am.” God then gives Jacob the assurances he needs to continue on with the next step, the last step, in his amazing life. God became Jacob’s God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
A similar moment occurs in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel, who grew to be a great prophet in Israel and the anointer of David as king, is but a young boy. He is living in the temple with the old priest Eli. One night while sleeping near the ark of God, Samuel was awakened by a voice calling his name. Samuel thought it was Eli. He ran to the elderly gentleman and said, “Here I am.” But it wasn’t Eli who called him, so Eli sent him back to bed. Again, it happened and again Eli sent Samuel back to bed.
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. (1 Samuel 3: 7-11)
There is again an astonishing message within the text: Samuel did not yet know the Lord, yet he was lying mere yards from the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest object within the temple. Even as a child he was quick to respond, “Here I am,” though he didn’t know it was to God. When he did respond to God, God shared with a boy what would occur for man. Samuel’s life was forever changed.
Centuries later, in one of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible, the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord, seated on a throne. The train of his robe, Isaiah records “filled the temple.” Angels were above Him, two of them flying, calling to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.”
Isaiah, in the presence of a holy God realized he was a man of unclean lips, living among unclean people and yet he had seen the Lord. “Woe to me!” he cried.
After one of the angels touched his lips with a piece of hot coal from the altar, his guilt was removed and his sin atoned for. Then God required, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (vs. 8)
Apparently without hesitation, Isaiah cried out, “Here I am! Send me!”
When Jesus Came
In an effort to explain the once-and-for-all sacrifice made by Christ, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews penned: The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship (Hebrews 10:1).
Those who draw near to worship. These words resonate within me. Drawing near to God for the purpose of worshiping Him. As Christians we believe that the way to do this does not come by the annual sacrifices of bulls and goats, as verse 4 states, but because Jesus came from His heavenly home to dwell among men, to teach them, to lead them, to die for them and then to conquer death for them so that sin would no longer separate men from God.
It’s as if God the Father said, “Whom shall we send to bring man back to us?” and Jesus said, “Here I am! Send me!”
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say: Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.' (Hebrews 10: 5-7 with reference to Psalm 40:6-8)
When the ultimate test of sacrifice was needed, it was Jesus Himself—the Light of the world, the Creator of the universe who cried out, “Send me!” Even at such a high cost, He came.
And Now We Come Songwriter Tim Hughes penned the words to a contemporary worship song, “Here I am to Worship.” In his song, he recognizes the extreme price the Son of God and the Father of the Son paid. Heaven for earth, riches for poverty, lightness for darkness. In the chorus, we sing, “Here I am…” just as Jacob, Samuel, and Isaiah said before us. Just as David wrote prophetically in his 40th psalm and Jesus quoted and the writer of Hebrews repeated.
The next time you sing these words, I encourage you to remember Jacob—near the end of his life and afraid—worshiping God in Be’er-Sheva, then hearing God call his name. I hope you remember Samuel at the beginning of his life, lying so close to the holiness of God, and being called. I implore you to think of the glories Isaiah encountered in the presence of God Almighty. Then remember what Jesus left to pave a way for us to worship, the ultimate price He paid on Calvary, and the beauty within Him and without.
And then, with the saints who have gone before you and those who stand with you, fall upon your knees and cry out, “Here I am, altogether lovely, altogether wonderful, most worthy God!”
Finally, listen as He speaks to your heart. As you draw near Him in worship, He will draw near you. Then stay until He calls your name and sends you out to do His work and to be His voice.Eva Marie Everson’s book Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel (Thomas Nelson/Nelson Bibles) will release September, 2008. For more information about the book and Eva’s speaking topics, go to www.EvaMarieEverson.com