It had been a remarkable life. From a far off idolatrous country he had come in response to the call of God. He had seen God working in many ways and had at times enjoyed His presence but at other times had failed. Now, with the passing of years, it appeared that his life had settled into a comfortable pattern. Surely he could now rest, content that the promise that he would have a son had been fulfilled, and at Beersheba enjoy tranquillity! But his peaceful days were interrupted. He recognised the call, "Abraham", as being the voice of God and without delay he responded, "Here am I" (Gen 22.1, JND): words he would utter again (Gen 22.11). The call was to the greatest test that he would face - to offer his son on an altar. In his immediate response he proved his complete confidence in the God he had come to know. This was a call to sacrifice.
After Jacob had been twenty years away from home, having learned much in the school of God, the angel of the God who was the God of Bethel, called his name and He replied, "Here am I" (Gen 31.11). The lessons he had learned over those long years bore fruit. He responded to a call to submit as later he would wrestle with the man at Peniel (Gen 32.24-32).
In the backside of the desert the shepherd was caring for the flock. He had known the wealth of Egypt and the dignity of royal privilege. He had also, since his flight from the land where he was born, known long times alone with the sheep. This call did not come in a time of tranquillity but rather in the labour of an ordinary day. The reply of Moses, "Here am I" (Ex 3.4), led to a call to serve.
For over fifty years the king had reigned, and, despite the fact that his last years were overshadowed by the folly of his attempt to usurp the priesthood, these had been years of relative stability. But now King Uzziah was dead causing uncertainty in the hearts of the people. In such days Isaiah went to the sanctuary and there he saw the Lord. As the call came to him he exclaimed, as others had done before him, "Here am I" (Is 6.8). What followed was a call to speak with lips that had been touched by the live coals from the altar.
But what significance is found in these words, "Here am I"? Did these not come from men who understood when God spoke? Did this not indicate that they were not strangers to the presence of God? Does it not tell us that they were willing to do as He commanded? In each case the call was unexpected, but without delay, without questioning, and without rancour they placed themselves at His disposal. Each individual faced different difficulties in heeding the call. For Abraham, it was the natural affection for his son; for Moses, the return to the land from which he had fled forty years previously; for Jacob, the meeting with a brother who had sought to take his life; for Isaiah, the working with an obdurate people who had proved their unfaithfulness to the Lord. The enormity of the charge given to them did not cause them to retreat. They rose to the challenges, faced them with trust in their God, and left their names recorded amongst the ranks of the faithful.
But what of today! The need for men and women to be devoted servants of the Lord is as great as ever. We are living through troubled days in a society that is consumed by desires to get and accumulate, and yet a society that has been shaken as God has blown on its structures. The one feature that is common to all four of these willing servants is that the Lord had prepared them for the moment when He would call. Although they did not know His purpose for them, before the call came they gave themselves over to getting to know their God.
From Scripture and in other ways He is calling today. Do we know Him? Would we recognise His voice? The challenge is great, as it was for these four who replied, "Here am I". Is there in our lives that burning desire to get to know the Lord who saved us? Throw off lethargy! Cast off worldliness! Redeem the time! The call, the challenge is to do that, so that when He calls, to places far or near, to work that is public or private, to responsibilities known or strange to us, we reply unhesitatingly, "Here am I".