Josh 9:14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.
Matt 17:19-21 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
What is missing in both of these passages? I believe it is prayer.
In the first passage, the Israelites were deceived by the Gibeonites. In fear of God and what he had done in Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites did not want to be destroyed so they pretended to have come a long distance and that they were not a neighbor in the land of Canaan—the land God had promised to the Israelites. I think because of their previous victories in these countries, there was a little pride in them. They knew God was with them. They looked at the evidence presented and believed what they saw and what the Gibeonites said. So, they made a treaty with them not to harm them. They swore by the name of God. It tells us no one ever stopped to pray to God to see what He had to say about all of this.
In the second passage, the disciples had been healing people and driving out demons in Jesus name. Yet they faced one demon in particular that they were unable to rebuke. The father was desperate and came to Jesus with his son when the disciples were unable to help him. Jesus healed the boy immediately. Later they asked Jesus why this one was difficult for them. His reply was “Because you have so little faith.”
Paul tells us in 2 Cor 5:7 “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (ESV) I found this definition of what it means to walk by faith that really gave me a better understanding of this: To walk by faith is to walk in a spirit of prayerful dependence on the Lord and His guidance. (Commentary on Joshua 9, Bible.org) It is how Jesus daily lived his life. He was in constant contact with God and he tells us many times he does only what he’s instructed to do by the Father. Prayerful dependence.
The Israelites believed what they saw and they were deceived. That can easily happen to us. We have an enemy who wants nothing more than to deceive us and keep us from living the life God has planned for us. We need the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives and that only comes from prayer. Each day we need to be on alert. We need to get our marching orders from God and never trust things to be as they appear.
The disciples started doubting their ability to do what Jesus had told them to do. What they had done for others was not working this time. They were walking by sight (I can’t do this). Their faith was weak in the power Jesus had given them. Isn’t that just like something I would do? I have been blessed by God to do something and soon I am trying to do it in my own power instead of including Him, by praying first? And then I wonder why I am not succeeding? I don’t believe Jesus was talking about a literal mountain in this verse (although he could have been) but I think he was referring to the trials we face–the ones that seem insurmountable, like mountains, looming before us. When we are walking by faith, in prayerful dependence of God, we can handle anything that comes our way. As Jesus said, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” I fall short of believing in the power I have been given as well. Without prayer, I have no faith.
Lord, sometimes I forget how very much I need you and try to live life on my own. It never works. Instead of moving mountains, I keep walking around the same ones and get stuck. Only through prayerful dependence on you can I accomplish anything. Only by constant contact with you can I avoid deception. Lord Jesus, be ever near. Amen