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Devotional Archives
(March 18, 2003)

Leanness of Soul

      By Fern Horst

"And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them. And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes." (Numbers 11:1-6)

It seems the Israelites had a legitimate reason to long for some type of normalcy in their lives. Camping is fun. But living constantly in a tent, and moving from place to place, doesn't sound appealing to me. Neither does eating the same thing day after day, even if it were something God miraculously dropped from heaven.

I suppose it wasn't their longing that displeased the Lord. After all He says that He remembers that we are "dust" (Psalm 103:14). But when the people started complaining and saying they'd rather be back in Egypt, where God had delivered them from slavery, He became angry with them. After all, they were saying that they knew better than He did what was best for them. They were refuting His goodness with their rebellion. They had forgotten all that God had done for them: deliverance from slavery in Egypt, provision of food from heaven every day, His guidance for each step with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and the gentle and caring leadership of Moses.

Their attitude isn't so different from the one we're tempted to have at times. We as singles have natural desires for marriage, for raising a family, and for fitting into a couple's world. We want to be "normal" like our married friends. Those longings in and of themselves aren't wrong. God understands them. But when we become angry with God, doubting His goodness and forgetting all that He's done for us, we're on dangerous ground.

We truly do have much to be thankful for as Christian singles: freedom from bondage to sin, the promise of eternal life, the day-to-day guidance and provision of a Heavenly Father, His Word to instruct us and give us direction for our lives, and all the many individual blessings He gives us. For me it's Christian family and friends, a caring church, a sense of purpose in His plan, and ten wonderful nieces and nephews to dote on. For you that list may be different, but just as valuable.

There's a grave danger in insisting that God give us what we want. When we ask God to fulfill our desires without a humble willingness to accept whatever He deems best, we may be at risk of getting what we want but losing the blessing of the Lord upon our lives. This is what happened to the Israelites when they insisted that God give them meat to eat:

"And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted." (Numbers 11:31-34)

Years later the Psalmist wrote about this tragedy:

"They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." (Psalm 103:13-15)

We escape that same leanness of soul when we praise God for all the blessings He's already given us, lay our desires before Him, and then tell Him that whatever He chooses for us we will accept with thanks.

© 2003 Fern Horst

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