"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Throughout the scriptures, God begins His work through some of his most influential and Godly men by seeking them out. Again and again, we see situations where God comes looking for a man who can carry out his plan, and throughout scripture we see a simple, humble, and faithful response to his calling: "Here I am."
The phrase "Here I am" is translated from the original Hebrew word "Hineni," which means not just being somewhere, as in standing in a certain place, to be located, but being present and accounted for - ready and waiting for the work that will be set forth.
Early in the history of man, God called upon Abraham, to test him with the task of sacrificing his only son. Abraham's response: "Here I am." He responded the same way to his son Isaac on their way to the place of sacrifice, when his son called upon him. One of the toughest tasks in history awaited Abraham that day.
Later in Genesis, God spoke to Jacob in the night, and Jacob's "Here I am" got him a summons for him and his family to go to the land of Egypt. Moses would later respond to the call from the burning bush with the same "Here I am" and be summoned to bring God's people back out of Egypt. Except now the family was a wee bit larger, and the journey would be long and hard and in the end he would die in the wilderness.
Samuel, though just a boy, responded to the calling of God in the night with the same "Hineni." God had a powerful life laid out for him, with much work to be done, but also much grief to be experienced.
Isaiah had a sinful and rebellious people on his hands, one that needed to "Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." And when God came looking for a man to send to rebuke them, Isaiah said "Here I am, send me."
Like Samuel, however, we live in a time where visions from the Lord are a rare thing indeed. Yet God's calling in our lives is still just as real and important to respond to as it ever was - you just have to listen a little more closely. First and foremost for all His people, our calling is to bear witness to Christ's completed work of love for us - sharing the Gospel message with those in our every day lives and taking it to the ends of the earth as well. And we are called to do this in the love of Christ - caring for the poor and the sick, feeding the hungry, eating and conversing with those stuck in a world of sin.
And that's just a cursory view of our calling - we each have a unique life of hard work laid out before us to accomplish our calling, and we're not promised any consolation in this life, instead we're promised suffering. So it should be no surprise when we're tempted to respond like Moses did with arguing and bargaining. We may even feel the urge to run and hide from what we would be called to, like Jonah did (this should be avoided, especially if you plan to travel by sea).
Hopefully, though, our response would be more like that of Samuel and Isaiah. Like Samuel, our "Hineni" should be one of childlike readiness and reliance - knowing that the tasks our Father will give us have been ordained for our good and His glory, secure that He will be with us in our work and give us no more than we can handle. Like Isaiah, however, we must come to our calling with the humility that we are but sinful and unworthy vessels to be used for the purposes of holy God.
But we also come knowing that we too have been cleansed - our guilt taken away and our sin atoned for - by the blood on the cross. Knowing this we should not only reply to the calling of God with "Hineni," but as Isaiah continued: "Send me!"