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Lean Souls

And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul (Psalm 106:15, nkjv).

Sometimes, if we complain and covet enough, God will give us exactly what we want—to our own ruin. Back in Numbers 11, God’s people launched a Complain Campaign. Their charge? “God, we don’t like this fresh manna you’re feeding us every day. We want meat. We must have meat!” On and on they complained and wept . . . until God gave them just what they asked for.

Moses announced, “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” (Numbers 11:18b–20a, esv).

Should the people celebrate—or shudder? God was so ticked at their arrogant rejection of His adequate provision and goodness, He gave them what they wanted. Because they thought meat could satisfy them in a way God could not, He gave them so much they choked on it.

So significant was God’s action that several hundred years later it was still the talk of Israel. It was mentioned in Psalm 106:15, as well as the consequence: “And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.” God gave them what they “had” to have but withdrew Himself.

With God, we can be satisfied and fulfilled with very little, but without Him, all that we have will be dry and deeply disappointing. With as much meat as they could eat, the Israelites could get physically fat if they wanted, but spiritually, they were starving. What parallels can we see in our own lives? Do we covet or crave something, put our lives on hold, and continually beg God for it?

Nothing is essential for us but Him. Things were never designed to take God’s place. When we covet something and consider it essential, then beg Him to give it to us, we are asking God to replace Himself with something we consider more important. When we do this, He may allow us to experience firsthand the consequences of substituting anything for Him—a relationship, a financial goal, a specific material dream, etc.

Covetousness is such a cruel enemy. It promises prosperity but brings only painful poverty of spirit. Indeed, in time we may hate what we thought we had to have—like the loathsome meat coming out of the Israelites’ nostrils.

In many Third World countries, people live in staggering poverty, but they can also demonstrate stunning peace and joy with very little. In contrast, many “rich” Christians are also the most miserable. We lament the spiritual poverty of the church but fail to make the connection: “And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.”

If you can relate to the Israelites’ insatiable cravings, be warned! Covetousness will take you to the place in life where you hate the very thing you had to have. God will essentially say, “Do you think that’s better than Me? Fine. Have it.” Beware of begging God for any non-essentials your heart craves. In time you may hate what you had to have.


Journal

  • What’s your meat—the thing you covet and crave, put your life on hold for, and continually beg God to give you?
  • How have you experienced leanness of soul?

Pray
Father God, I need You and nothing more. I want You and nothing more. Please forgive me for my craving, complaining, and begging for things I think will fill my heart. How foolish that I thought __________ would fulfill me. Only You fulfill me. God, I don’t want a lean soul. I want to be one of “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” for You promise, “they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). May I be satisfied in You, my Lord. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray, amen.


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