The old man stood up before the people for the very last time, and looked at their upturned faces. They all seemed so very young; the doubters and refusers, the ones who thought like slaves and had no faith or courage were gone now, and the time of their wandering was drawing to an end. Soon now they would be entering the land promised to Abraham, the land flowing with milk and honey, but he would not be among them. It was almost time to climb his last mountain, to be done with the problems and pains of this world and enter into God’s rest. This was his last time to speak to their hearts and awaken them to the wonder of the God who held them in the hollow of his hand.
He began by reminding them of their history. God had redeemed them from the land of slavery and brought them to an appointed meeting with himself at Sinai, where he had entered into covenant with them. He would be their God and they would be his people: a nation of priests and a holy nation. But how quickly they had rebelled against the very one who saved them. Given the chance to enter the land of promise, they had refused from fear. Did they who had walked through the parted waters and escaped the wrath of Egypt not believe that the same God could give them victory over Canaan? So began their wandering years, homeless and stateless, yet still God held them fast.
Look at the evidence:
Through the years, God had given them victory over the nations that took up arms against them.
Through the years, neither God’s commandments nor his covenant had changed. He was the same God, all-powerful and all-holy, and he was still calling them into relationship with himself.
Through the years he had still poured out on them the blessings promised to Abraham, and they had flourished and increased until their numbers were like the stars in the sky or the grains of the sand.
Through the years he led them safely through the harshness of the empty lands.
Through the years he fed them with the miraculous bread from heaven, and taught them that man’s truest hunger is for the very words of God.
Through the years (all those years!) their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell from walking.
Through the years he had kept them and blessed them, but would they forget the God of their fathers when they were settled and comfortable like all the other nations?
He looked out across them earnestly and prayed that his words would impress them enough to keep them following and worshipping aright. He would give the law again to this new generation, but first there was one thing he really wanted to make clear. How terrible it would be if they thought it was their own greatness that had got them there!
“God did not set his affection upon you because you were such a great people. You were the least. No, it was because the Lord loved you, and because he made a promise to your forefathers, that he is bringing you to the place of abundance.”
He hoped that some of them would truly understand.