Just nineteen days before the end of his life, Leonard Cohen released a final song in his own unique style. The backing singers can be heard repeating “Hineni, hineni.” It is a Hebrew word with several contextual applications, but basically meaning, “Here I am, ready to serve.”

When someone answers a call by replying, “Hineni”, they are indicating a willingness to listen, to obey an instruction, to step up and do whatever is required in the circumstances. Significantly, Cohen’s final words are, “I am ready Lord.”

When the great prophet Samuel was a young child he was dedicated to the Temple guardianship to be tutored by the aged priest Eli. One night in the stillness of his sleeping quarters, young Samuel heard a voice calling him by name. A lovely old hymn tells the story of Samuel’s experience.

“Hushed was the evening hymn
The Temple courts were dark
The lamp was burning dim
before the sacred ark
When suddenly a voice divine
rang through the silence of the shrine.”

Realizing that God had a special message for the boy, Eli advised him to respond with “Hineni”, meaning, “Here I am. Speak Lord, for your servant listens.” From that time onwards, the flow of communication continued throughout Samuel’s lifetime, in turmoil and conflict, joy and celebration, interpreting the will of God and mediating for his people.

When a burning bush caught the attention of Moses, he had no intention of changing his quiet, pastoral life for the awesome challenge of leading a complex often querulous nation out of slavery through the dangers of alien territories to a new distant settlement.

Whilst Gideon was busy on the threshing floor, fully occupied with his useful task, the commission of God began the transformation of a modest harvester into a mighty warrior.

When the prophet Isaiah replied, “Hineni” to God’s question, “Whom shall I send?” he dedicated himself to the task ahead in full anticipation of high cost to status and reputation.

It was a blinding light that knocked the zealous Saul of Tarsus into facing a total revolution in his purpose in life, holding nothing back, in absolute reliance on the sustaining power of God. So the list goes on of those who heard the insistent calling of their name; Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Mary and most significantly Jesus, standing in the synagogue declaring, from Psalm 40, “Here I am, ready to do the Father’s will.”

Most of us, if we are honest, would be seriously perplexed if we were to hear an actual voice calling our name, followed by a commission that would jeopardize our plans for life. Yet we are aware of the little nagging promptings to visit someone, to offer practical help, to provide for a need, to write a note of sympathy or support, or to take on a role of commitment.

There are three issues here for blessing to follow. Firstly, we need to be tuned in and ready to listen. Secondly, we have to be willing to serve in whatever context is indicated. Thirdly, we have to realize that the resources we will need are already available for the appropriate time.

Like the patriarchs of old, we may still echo their words, “Lord, unless You go with me, do not send me.” We rely on God’s ability to make all things possible.

Over decades now, our Tuesday Friendship Group has been delighted to support a wide variety of charities manned by volunteers who have matched inner conviction with practical output.

Around the world today aid workers, stretcher bearers, bomb disposal units, search and rescue crews put themselves in the line of fire out of mercy and compassion. Their dedication is beyond valuation. When we say, “Hineni Lord God” we are in fact replying to His Hineni.”, meaning “I am here with you. May it be that we have the courage and faith to say, as the old hymn speaks as a prayer.

“O give me Samuel’s ear
The open ear O Lord
Alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Your word
Like him to answer at Your call
And to obey You first of all,”

Iris Niven 

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