Friday, July 20, 2012

Leanness of Soul

Now, vigilantly guard your souls: 
Love God, your God. 
(Joshua 23:11a MSG)

13 They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.
Psalm 106:13-15 NKJV

“Leanness of soul.” Is there a more hopeless phrase anywhere? There’s a lot here in this passage. The psalmist is revisiting the Israelite’s time in the wilderness when they lusted for meat (see Numbers 11). They were demanding of God, even though He’d done so much for them… Convicting, isn’t it? And then, when God did capitulate and give them what they wanted, they got sick on it. But worse than that, God gave them leanness of soul—He let their souls go hungry. But, how much of that was God’s doing? 

It’s a progression. The people had forgotten to “feed” their souls on God and because of this, they were drifting from Him, even as they physically followed Him through the wilderness. They became more focused on the things they had to complain about than the fact that God was right there demonstrating His power, His “other-ness” in front of them daily. They also let their stomachs rule them. That’s always a mistake—whenever we let our physical selves rule our spiritual selves. Our spirits are what live on through eternity. By focusing on their physical lusts, they neglected to minister to God and let God minister to them. 

This verse vividly displays their fall to temptation:

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?" (Numbers 11:4 NKJV)

People were created to delight in God and so God could delight in them. Leanness of soul is not the preferred way to live. How does one avoid “leanness of soul?” Here are a few ways:

Keep God first. Prioritize God in your life, in your day, in your heart. 

Desire God’s will. This is a tough one. Do we really always want God’s will? Sometimes God’s will involves pain and suffering, and even death. That’s a challenge for us to embrace. Perhaps, in denying the Israelites meat, God was calling them to fast so they could focus again on Him and not their stomachs and their lusts. God’s will involves denial sometimes. Humility and brokenness help us embrace God’s will. 

Seek God. This ties into the first one above, about prioritizing God. But, as the Israelites demonstrated, God can be right with us, moving and displaying His acts of power and lovingkindness, and we can miss Him. By seeking Him, reading the Word, worshiping, and praying, we won’t “miss” Him. And we’re less likely to get caught up in our own lusts and our own will. 

Live God's Way. Find out what God's will is and do it. Live as His Word commands. Follow His directives. Micah 6:8 tells us: "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] God."

Here's some good news: God wants to fill us up. Look at these Scriptures of promise and instruction where our soul’s satisfaction is concerned:

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
(Isaiah 55:2 NKJV)

9 If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:9-11 NKJV)
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
(Psalm 63:5 NKJV)

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:19 AV)

Watch this: God's eye is on those who respect him,
      the ones who are looking for his love.
   He's ready to come to their rescue in bad times;
      in lean times he keeps body and soul together.
(Psalm 33:18-19 MSG)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Warning: Some Adjustment Required

Jesus came to help. To bind up the brokenhearted (aren’t you glad?) and free captives. You’d think that would always be a good thing. Who doesn’t want to be free? Or healed? Hmm… have you always wanted to be healed? At first, we say “absolutely!” But the next time you aren’t feeling well and it gets you out of working on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, you may not agree. I mean, who doesn’t like a nice four-day weekend. We can tolerate a little head cold if we can be at home an extra day, right? We might even be able to head out on the boat, or skip out of town a morning early.

There are other reasons people might not want to get free, or to be healed. 


When you’ve come to live with something for a while and it’s “normal,” if that “norm” is changed, everyone around you is affected. Your friends and family doesn’t know what to expect anymore. You don’t know what to expect. 

Check out this passage from John 5 where Jesus finds the man sick for nearly 40 years near the pool of Bethesda. 

When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool
and knew how long he had been there,
he said, “Do you want to get well?”
(John 5:6 MSG)

What Jesus is really saying is: Are you ready for a whole slew of changes in your life?

And deeper: have you used your sickness to: just get by, or to get away with laziness, or to earn sympathy or attention? Have you used it as an excuse? Are you ready to take on more responsibilities? To get a different job (or any job)? To work hard(er), to work long hours? Are you ready for no more excuses? 

The man Jesus is addressing had been suffering with his ailment for close to forty years. That’s a lifetime in some eras. There were implied changes in the implication of Jesus’s question: “Are you ready for some changes? Think about this. Do you want healing? Come into agreement with My good plans for you.

“Are you willing to change?” 

Sometimes changes are all about freedom.

Good health.

Being well. 

Freedom from pain.

But there are some adjustments required.

Like adding a new baby to the family. Whether it’s the first or a subsequent baby, it’s a tough, tough season. No sleep. Older siblings feel left out. Walking hallucinations. Pain. But it’s a good change. It’s just challenging. And it won’t always be so difficult.

It’s about learning a new way of life. 

Sometimes we aren’t assured that the change we’re enduring is for the better. We certainly don’t always have that guarantee. So, what do we do then? We trust God has something good for us. 

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord.
They are plans for peace and not disaster,
plans to give you a future filled with hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 GW)

Is God taking you to or through a change? Do you know the outcome will be worth it? Even if you don’t, trust that God is faithful. He will not let you down.