Israel's Response to the Law's Demand
God's law demands wholehearted obedience. "This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 26:16). When the Israelites heard this summary requirement of the law, they confidently promised that they would obey. "Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice." Forty years earlier, when the Lord first gave His law to His people, they responded in a similar fashion. "Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, 'All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.'"
Their intentions were certainly commendable. However, their performance was definitely unacceptable. Even before they had departed from the mountain where the law was given, they plunged into disobedience. "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it" (Exodus 32:8). Soon after the death of Joshua (who led them into the Promised Land), they repeatedly rebelled against the Lord their God. The book of Judges documents this clearly: "And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD" (3:12); "And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD" (4:1); "Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD" (6:1); "Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD" (10:6).
Twelve hundred years later, Stephen would summarize Israel's history of disobedience. "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51). What a sobering evaluation of those who were so confident of obeying the law of God.