Here I Am
Updated: May 17, 2022
This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.
Genesis 37 introduces the final portion of the Bible’s opening book. Up to this point, we have learned about Adam and Noah, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. This final portion is about those twelve sons of Jacob, including Joseph, the focus of this devotional series.
Each of these individual characters perform a representative role of some kind, whether that’s Adam as a stand-in for all humanity or Abraham as the covenant head of God’s chosen people. These stories represent landmarks along God’s path of redemption; eventually reaching the fulfillment of that promise made in Genesis 3:15 of one who would destroy the evil one and reverse the curse brought about by man’s sin.
But as you may have noticed, there appears to be as many steps backward as there are forward. The stories of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob are full of many admirable instances of faith but also a lot of individual and personal failure. How is God going to bring about his redemptive plans when he keeps picking these imperfect people?
But the story of Genesis and the Old Testament is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness for his people despite their moral failures. We are meant to see that it is the Lord who is accomplishing his purposes. He is pushing the story along.
A key literary element to guide us is the simple Hebrew phrase: “Here I am.” One cannot help but notice how much it pops up!
Abraham utters the phrase in Genesis 22:1, the account of when his faith was tested to the breaking point. After God delivered on his promise to give Abraham a son–a necessary first step toward making him a great nation–he then commanded Abraham to sacrifice that very son of promise, a step decidedly in the opposite direction.
When God called Moses to deliver his people from slavery, Moses responds with the same words (Exodus 3:4). Same with Samuel, who cries out to God, “Here I am” not once but three times (1 Samuel 3:1) And of course, it is the prophet Isaiah’s famous response to God’s inquiry in Isaiah 6:8.
The story of Jacob, Joseph’s father, makes interesting use of the phrase as well. At first, it appears in the story when Jacob deceives his father and steals his older brother’s birthright (Genesis 27:1). But Jacob himself utters the very words when the angel of God calls him in a dream (Genesis 31:11).
And again, we see the same phrase used in our passage today. This dire story of what is about to befall Joseph begins with “Here I am.”
So what does it mean?
Clearly, the phrase serves as a kind of signpost for the reader, an indication that God’s redemptive purposes are at work amidst the story of this particular character. Interesting too is the way God works through and among people whose own sin, weaknesses, and circumstances should have grinded God’s progress to a screeching halt (by our own estimation, at least!).
Abraham and Sarah were an elderly couple well past childbearing age. Jacob was a liar and a usurper. And Joseph, at least so far in Genesis 37, doesn’t seem to be an overwhelmingly positive figure. Born into a dysfunctional family, Joseph has done nothing but earn the ire of his own brothers, so much so they’re willing to kill him at the first chance. Even though he’s spared from that grisly fate, his brothers still elect to sell him into slavery bound for a idolatrous nation far from his own. How will God continue to accomplish his purposes through this mess?
Still, a careful reader of Genesis cannot help but see, and rejoice, at God’s faithfulness again and again. It’s a theme that not only continues throughout the Old Testament but is fulfilled in the New.
“Here I am” is of course what Adam should have said to God in the garden. But after disobeying the law of God, he hid from the Lord. We have inherited that same breach in relationship, a separation from our Father in heaven precipitated by our own sin.
Thankfully, there was one who answered the Lord’s call when we could not. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks of God’s redemptive plan. The people, beleaguered by the consequences of their own sin cry out for salvation (Isaiah 58:9). Who will rescue them? Is there anyone that can finally undo the pain and turmoil of sin and death?
Praise God that it is he himself who answers, “Here I am.” Not through another mere man like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, or Joseph; but through the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the God-man, answers the call on our behalf. Though we fell alongside Adam’s silence, we rose by Christ’s pronouncement, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Take comfort knowing God’s redemptive plan cannot be thwarted by the schemes of man. And remember his steadfast love for you; that before you were even born, God set in motion a plan, culminating in our Lord Jesus Christ, to rescue you from sin and death.
Robert Hasler is a Ministry Associate and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.