Read Psalm 106:1-48
Be Careful What You Ask For
So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease upon them.
The psalmist begins, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1). So here’s an important question: Do you give only theological assent to that belief, or do you truly believe it in the real world of your everyday life? The acid test that theological belief is congruent with practical belief is the daily manifestation of trust, contentment and gratitude.
Quite often, when the Israelites’ collective belief was put to the test, it failed. In this psalm, the writer details Israel’s sad history of unbelief as God led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Along the way, God performed some of the mightiest miracles of all time—the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night, manna to eat every single morning for forty years—just to name a few. At every step, God’s miraculous and more-than-enough provision sustained his people.
Yet Israel was still dissatisfied. The people griped, they complained, they lusted for other things—they tested God, and their leader Moses, at every turn in the bend. So God decided to put them to the test as well, to see what was truly in their hearts. And here’s how he tested them: He gave them what they incessantly insisted on!
And when the children of Israel got what they wanted, they lustily, greedily, indulgently consumed it until it made them deathly sick—literally! God gave them what their hearts craved until their hearts caved under the weight of their own foolish desires. The Message translation of this text puts a more spiritual twist to it:
“He gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it they got an empty heart.”
That should stand forever as a sobering reminder that what we desperately want may not be what we desperately need. They are often two different things, and we would be wise to recognize the difference. When we persistently refuse God’s provision, fail to exercise trust in his abundant care, forget to practice contentment in his goodness, neglect gratitude for his love, and greedily insist on what we want, there comes a point when God will say, “fine, have it your way.”
What a sad and scary thing—that we might actually get what we want!
In all honesty, I hope I never get what I want. I don’t trust my own heart, and the desires it conjures up. What I pray for, however, is to get what God wants me to have—all of it—and along with it, contentment in the good and wise provision of the One who lovingly and continually watches over me.
Trust, contentment and gratitude—that’s the acid test of a faith that is not only theological, but practical!
“All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring
from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”