The entire book of Deuteronomy consists of a single speech by Moses, delivered just before his death. This speech was a review of the forty years Israel had spent wandering in the wilderness and Moses delivered it to a new generation of Israelites.
At the time, the people were perched at Kadesh-Barnea, an important place in their history. They were at the border of Canaan, the Promised Land, the same spot where their fathers had stood thirty-eight years before. It was also the place where God had prevented that older generation from entering into the Promised Land. Except for Joshua and Caleb, they were all sent back into the wilderness to wander until the whole generation died out.
Now Moses was reminding this new generation of their fathers’ story. He wanted them to know exactly why the previous generation had died as despairing rebels in God’s eyes. Moses urged them to learn from their parents’ tragic mistakes, saying, in so many words:
“You know your fathers’ history. They were a people called, chosen and anointed by God. But they lost the vision. The Lord so loved them that He bore them up in His arms and carried them, time after time. Yet over and over, they murmured and complained against Him, grieving Him.
“Finally, God’s patience came to an end. He saw that they were committed to unbelief and there was nothing He could do to change their minds. No miracle He performed could fully persuade them of His faithfulness and goodness. Their hearts were like granite, so God told them, ‘Not one of you is going to enter My promised land. Instead, you’re going to turn around now and go back into the wilderness.’”
What powerful words. Yet Moses wasn’t just speaking to a new generation of Israelites. He was also addressing every generation of believers to follow, including us today. Like all the Old Testament accounts, this one was written for us: “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition [instruction], upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).