The Defining Moment

Bible Focus: Numbers 13-14

They reported to Moses, “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified.”

Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”

But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!”

Numbers 13:27-28a,30-31 CSB

When we are little children, we don’t have much power to define our lives. We typically have all of our significant choices already decided by those who are taking care of us. At particular times, we might have some input on where we might go, what we might do, or what we might eat. However, these little decisions aren’t usually of much importance to our overall life.

As we get older, though, we start having significant moments of decision that define our next few weeks, months, years, or even our lifetime. These moments involve critical opportunities, threats, or both. We can step up in those moments and make good choices that reap real rewards. We can also make mistakes in these moments that will cost us dearly.

Maybe we work really hard to pass a class, and in the process we develop habits that serve us well for a long time. Maybe we fail to tell that important person how we feel about them, and they ultimately end up with someone else. Maybe we go on a spending binge, and years later we’re still paying interest. Maybe we firmly say “no” to a particular temptation the first time it shows up, and that temptation never gains a foothold in our life.

Whatever the specifics of our defining moments, we often won’t realize their importance until after they have passed. By then, it’s too late to prepare ourselves for them or change the consequences resulting from them, whether they be good or bad. But if we learn to trust and obey God in these moments, then we’ll make better choices than when we only rely on our own devices.

We often won’t realize the importance of our defining moments until after they have passed, and by then it’s too late to change them.

The Israelite people were formerly slaves to the Egyptians, but God used Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into freedom. For a whole year after leaving Egypt, the new nation of Israel practiced following God in the wilderness.

God himself provided a visible sign of his leadership and presence with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He fed them with manna, a type of seed that would miraculously appear on the ground in the morning for them to gather. God taught the people how to obey and worship God by following the commands of the law that he gave to Moses.

God also repeatedly promised in his law that he would give Israel the land of Canaan that he promised Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. He promised that bit by bit he would drive out their enemies from the land. The people just had to trust and obey God, and victory would be given to them just as surely as God had given them freedom from Egypt.

However, when it came time to enter the promised land, the people faltered. Moses sent into Canaan a scouting party of a dozen men. The scouting group came back with a report that the land was very good, but that it was also inhabited by fierce enemies.

Two of the scouts stood with Moses and his brother Aaron and urged the people to trust God and enter the land. The other ten scouts argued that they should turn back. The people sided with the ten. They bitterly complained against Moses, Aaron, and God, and talked of plans to return to Egypt. At that point, God himself showed up and asked two rhetorical questions:

The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people despise me? How long will they not trust in me despite all the signs I have performed among them?”

Numbers 14:11 CSB

The answer to God’s rhetorical questions (how long?) was painfully obvious (forever). These people would forever despise and distrust God. The defining moment for these people had passed. So God told the people to turn back and live in the wilderness for 40 years. During those 40 years, that entire generation would die, a new generation would take their place, and the new generation would take possession of the land that God had promised.

But there was another kind of defining moment for Caleb and Joshua, who were the two scouts that had believed God and urged the people to enter the land. Because of their faith, God proclaimed that they would not perish with the rest of their generation in the wilderness. Caleb and Joshua would live long and enter Canaan and enjoy the promised land.

Unfortunately, we will fail many of the defining moments in our life. That’s the nature of sin. But here’s the good news: because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have a defining moment of faith in God that supersedes all others. When we turn to Jesus to forgive our sin and reconcile us to God, then that becomes our all-time defining moment that redefines everything else.

Featured image by Neil Mark Thomas on Unsplash.

This post is #14 in The Truly Good Book series. Subscribe to more posts below.

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