"He gave them
their request, but sent leanness into their souls"
What a sad 'but' that
is! It represents God's frustration and disappointment.
It means that God has so left the decision and choice
with man that He will not force or coerce. It points to
the fact that God has a great intention where His people
are concerned but they may miss it.
But when all that has
been said, the reason for the tragedy was - and can be -
persistent insistence on having what the people who pray
want rather than what the Lord had so evidently shown to
be His will.
It is therefore
possible for God to yield to us, to answer our prayer,
and for the result to be an everlasting regret and
What are the
alternatives? The context of the verse in Psalm 106, and
the reference to Numbers 6, shows that it all hinged upon
the food question.
The Manna was too
mysterious, too inscrutable, too delicate, too heavenly,
too miraculous, too 'spiritual'. It contrasted with the
tangible, certain (?), understandable, and naturally
gratifying food of Egypt. The fact is that their
spiritual life had dropped to such a low level as to make
them forget the tyranny, labour, heartbreak, and
groanings in Egypt, and to be in an illusionary mentality
about that terrible history. Get spiritually low and the
world holds out false attraction. Granted that the life
of faith and a supernatural basis of life has trials and
difficulties for the flesh and the natural man, but it
has a daily miracle of sustenance at its heart. The point
of departure with them was whether their own souls were
to be gratified or whether they were to be a testimony to
"leanness into their souls" indicates that,
firstly, thinness, scantiness, smallness, starvation,
tenuity, weakness, and contraction in spiritual stature
and measure are quite contrary to a God who is so full,
abundant, and beneficent. Such contraction and limitation
could never be a testimony to Him.
In the next place, the
words indicate that the heavenly, the supernatural, the
spiritual, and the way of faith is really the way of
spiritual robustness and substance.
How lean-souled many of
the Lord's people are! How little many of them and many
churches have to give! How rare it is to find those -
individually or collectively - who have much more than
they need themselves and plenty for others! Starvation
conditions are all too common among the Lord's people.
There are many reasons for this, but our verse says that
it is the preference for the earthly to the heavenly, and
an unwillingness to forego the natural for the spiritual.
This whole matter is threshed out in the First Letter to
the Corinthians, a church characterized by spiritual
leanness, weakness, and smallness.
Spiritual leanness can
be a judgment. "He sent leanness into their
souls", while he gave them their request for natural
At any cost let us set
the highest value and importance upon spiritual fulness,
the fulness of Christ, and never by any means limit Him,
or be instrumental in limiting Him in others!
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1964, Vol 42-1