The wandering is over, and approximately 40 years have passed since the Hebrews left Egypt. They are ready to go into Canaan to possess it, but before they do, they must take a course in history.
I can only imagine how eager the Israelite's would have been at this point. They would have been like a child in a candy store. So close to their destination, but first a speech? It would be like opening a bag of salt 'n vinegar chips only to look at the chips and smell them, but not being able to taste them. If their patience wasn't tested before, it might be now.
So Moses provides a recap of history along with some laws to reiterate. After all, everyone with the exception of Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, had been younger than 20 when the covenant was established at Mount Sinai.
As Moses goes back in time, he talks about the return of the spies. Despite their initial report of a good land (vs 26), the people were afraid to go into Canaan because they did not have their trust placed in God. Moses goes on to tell the "children" of these rebels that the penalty for that rebellion was death in the wilderness.
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Moses did not want history to repeat itself, so this review was crucial. The next step to avoiding a repeat of disaster is the ability and desire to remember history.
We all know Israel's ability in remembering God's promises, God's words, God's deliverance, God's commands, God's blessings, and God's curses. But do we? Will history be repeated in our lives? Are we a broken record, that just keeps playing the same situations over and over and over again? Have we given God our whole heart? Or are we wandering in our Christian walk and taking a much longer, harder journey to the destination that God is calling us to?