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Have you ever heard the expression, “a skinny soul”?  No, I doubt that you have because I just made it up! Seriously, I have been troubled lately by the thought that we could have the capacity, if not the power, to persist and eventually prevail so that God gives us what we have demanded even though it may not be the best for us.

Of course, wanting our own way is the very essence of sin (Isaiah 53/6). Could it be that we, like petulant children, can nag God to the point where He gives in to our demands and gives what we want? Somehow that picture just doesn’t fit our understanding or image of God. Surely He is much ‘bigger’ than that picture would suggest.

“What has that got to do with this ‘skinny soul’ I mentioned earlier?”

There is a verse in the Psalms that would support such a notion i.e. maintaining our stubborn determination until Gold give us what we are demanding. In the King James Version it reads thus:

          And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. Psalm 106:15  

The setting or context of that verse is very important. The people of God were in a season of rebellion. They had forgotten all that God had done for them – their deliverance from Egypt, God’s provision for them in the wilderness etc.  In fact, they put the Lord to the test. There’s no doubt that testing or tempting God is a Biblical possibility. (Matt.4/7; Heb.3/7-9)

Such was their entrenched rebellion that God chose to discipline them by granting their requests even though there was a sting in the tail.

In this case, there were two consequences.

  1. They got what they asked for – for better or for worse.

  2. They got more than they asked for because the granting of their request may have been a good thing at one level of their existence but it was damaging at another level.

At the level that really counted – their inner life or “soul” if you like, they became even more distant from God. The KJV translates that reality with the phrase, “leanness of soul”. The phrase for me conjures up images of an emaciated body, just skin and bones. Outwardly, they may have appeared healthy at that level but their relationship with God was deteriorating and struggling to survive.

There’s another account in the Old Testament of a spiritual dynamic not dissimilar to this one

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:4-9 (NLT)

In this case, they wanted a King to rule over them. They didn’t like the current arrangement and they wanted to be like the other nations around them. So, in due course, God appears to have yielded to their demands. One could argue that the anointing of the first King of Israel (King Saul) proved ultimately to be a good thing and that, despite the nature of the transition from Judges to Kings, God’s will was ultimately accomplished.

Even if that was the case, their rejection of God’ authority in their lives does not justify the attitude with which they “got their own way.”

All of this still leaves me concerned about my spiritual condition and the possibility that God may allow me to prosper in one area of my life which I then assume is His blessing or approval in that area while in another area (most likely spiritual) I am slowly wasting away as I experience “leanness of soul”.

This danger confronts all believers but I am especially concerned about those in positions of leadership in the Church.

To my fellow Pastors I would say, “We need to be alert to the ever-present danger of leanness of soul. Our insistence that God should do thus and so may lead to success in that area of ministry while, at the same time, we are being afflicted with “leanness of soul”.

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