In the Old Testament, it is as clear as crystal that God wants his people to trust only in Him, and not in man or other nations. Here is just a sampling of the many such references:
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me, 6that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:5-7
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4
Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 2 Chronicles 20:20
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord …
… The Egyptians are man, and not God, Isaiah 31:1,3
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, Psalm 146:3-6
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9
Hundreds and hundreds of years later, Jesus comes into the world and says unless you believe I AM, you will die in your sins; you believe in God? Believe also in Me:
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. John 8:24-30
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. John 14:1-11
Can you believe that? No Jew in his right mind would ask his fellow-Jews to believe in Himself as they believed in God, yet Jesus comes to the very people whom God told to believe only in Him, and tells them that to be saved they have to believe in Him!! Look again at Psalm 143:3 above.
That is the clearest proof that Jesus is claiming to be God! Why would Jesus make such a claim? Because He is indeed God!! How astonishingly simple a proof of Jesus’ deity is this!!
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” John 10:27-33
These Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming! Yet our Jehovah’s Witness friends don’t get it, do they? They say they believe in Jehovah God, and in Jesus as God’s Son, but not in Jesus as God. But Jesus says if you don’t believe “I AM” (i.e. Jehovah), you’ll die in your sins!!!! John 8:24, as quoted earlier.
Under the Law of Moses, God always required Israel’s faith in Him for salvation.
“You shall have no other gods before me,” Exodus 20:3, helps us to see that, at the heart of the Old Testament, was the need for faith! As Abraham was justified by faith, Genesis 15:6, so Israel would be too. “The just shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. In other words, in commanding them to have no other gods, Israel was being commanded to trust only in Yahweh as the one and only true and living God. 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 40:6; Jeremiah 10:10. And yet there were times when Israel trusted other nations, Deuteronomy 8:17-20; 2 Kings 17:7-12; Isaiah 31:1-7, Israel knew their God, but they didn’t always trust Him! Knowing is not believing. Today, many know about God, but relatively few actually believe in Him – trust in Him for life.
In Exodus 20:1-2, we read: And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The God who gave Israel freedom from slavery, and who then gave them the Ten Commandments and many other laws to obey, is the God who expected His people to trust Him in all things, including keeping His laws. He was their life. Deuteronomy 30:20.
In the Old Testament religion of Israel, keeping commandments was very important, Malachi 4:4, but believing in God was even more important. Keeping God’s commandments should have been seen as an expression of their faith in God for eternal life, for no one can perfectly keep every law all the time. Psalm 16:10; 21:3-7; 49:15; 73:24-26; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-3; Galatians 3:10-12. When they obeyed His laws, they were essentially trusting that what was in those laws was good for their souls. David knew this. Read Psalm 119 and Psalm 32. David loved God’s Law (just read Psalm 119), but he knew that forgiveness came through trusting in God! Read Psalm 32.
Let’s think about this a little more:
Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the just decrees. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Exodus 24:3-4
Isn’t there a subtle difference between saying, ““All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do,” and thinking, “All the laws God has given us we can do all by ourselves”!! Isn’t the former a promise based on faith in what God has told them and given them (King David’s attitude), but isn’t the latter an assertion of self-righteousness (like the Pharisees)?? We Christians can make the same mistake by trusting our own obedience instead of Jesus!
Jesus came into the world to remind Israel of Laws they had forgotten[i], such as Leviticus 19:9-19a, set us all free from the slavery of sin, John 8:33; Romans 6:23, give us true life, Matthew 4:4; John 10:10; Hebrews 11:6, and revive God’s Old Testament truth that righteousness is only granted on the basis of faith – not law-keeping. He Himself lived his whole life believing in His Father, always doing what pleased His Father, and trying to get Israel to believe in God and Himself as God with us!! Matthew 1:23; John 8:24-36; 14:1-6. Israel had promised God, “All the Lord has spoken we will do.” Exodus 24:3. None was exempt. Jesus as a Jew obeyed everything His Father commanded, even though He Himself was God!. John 8:24,28,58; Hebrews 10:5-7. Jesus spoke the words of His Father. John 12:44,49-50; 14:24,31; 17:8. Jesus believed the words of His Father. Jesus thus did what no other Jew had ever done – do God’s will! Hebrews 10:7,9. Jesus – the Son of God - is an example to us that even the greatest should trust God!
The Pharisees thought they were the greatest, but they trusted in themselves instead of humbly trusting in God. Luke 18:9-14.
During Jesus’ life on earth, the Law of Moses was still every bit applicable, as it had been since the days of
Moses. Matthew 5:17-19; 22:36-40. Yet Jesus asked the Jews to believe in Him as they should have believed in God!! “You believe in God. Believe also in Me.” John 14:1. As stated above, this is as strong a statement anywhere in Scripture that Jesus is claiming to be God. Belief in Jesus, as God, brings freedom from sin, freedom from Satan’s clutches and the fear of death, Hebrews 2:14-15, the gift of eternal life, John 5:24, and also the responsibility to take seriously the righteousness God gives through Jesus by faith. Matthew 5:20; 6:1-8,33; Romans 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
John 8:24 doesn’t say “believe that I am He;” it says: “believe that I am.” That’s a claim to being the true God!! Just as later in John 8, Jesus says, “…before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58
Remember this? God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you … This is My name forever …!'" Exodus 3:14-15.
So when Jesus is saying, believe I AM, He is saying believe I am Jehovah. (For another proof that Jesus is Jehovah, read all of Hebrews 1, but especially 1:10, where Jesus is said to be the Lord who created the earth - a quote from Psalm 102:1,25, in which Psalm … Lord is Jehovah!! “O Lord” in Psalm 102:1 is rendered “O Jehovah” in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, but they clearly don’t believe Hebrews 1:10 that Jesus is Jehovah!!
Though many did not in believe in Jesus, some Jews did believe in Jesus, John 7:31; 8:30-32; 10:41-42; 11:25-26. “The just shall live by faith” … in God and therefore in Jesus!
Such faith brought eternal life, John 6:40, even while the Law of Moses was still in effect!
Matthew 5:17-19. It was faith that had always brought eternal life – not keeping the law of Moses
Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Psalm 73:24-26; Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 10:1-5. “End” in 10:4 is “goal”!!
(i) Jesus is God, for God said: “Trust Me only,” Psalm 62, yet Jesus said: “Trust me!” John 13:19-20; 14:1,6. Therefore Jesus is God!!
Jesus confirmed it. Mark 2:1-12.
John asserted it. John 1:1-4;
Thomas believed it. John 20:24-28.
We can also believe it and receive the gift of eternal life. John 20:29-31.
(ii) God has always justified his people through faith, whether or not the Law of Moses was in effect!
(iii) Jesus is the final proof that God always wanted Israel’s faith instead of their legalism and self- righteousness. Luke 13:34; 18:1-14; John 5:37-47. God saves only believers in Him! Romans 10:1-13.
Israel’s fatal mistake was in always assuming that their observance of the Law of Moses – not their trust
in God - would bring God’s forgiveness. Paul taught that very thing in his letter to the Roman Christians.
Now read Romans 9:30-33; 10:1-5. David loved God’s Law (just read Psalm 119), but he knew that
forgiveness came through trusting in God! Psalm 32. Jesus had spent his whole life trying to get Jews to understand this truth about believing in God instead of trusting self. In many respects he was only reminding them of what was already in their Law! This is all theologically explained in Romans 4:3-16 as follows:
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.
The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring — not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
Justification, righteousness, salvation – whatever way God puts it – has always been based on God’s promise to Abraham that in Abraham’s descendant, Jesus Christ, God would bless all nations. Salvation for everyone – whether they lived before the time of the Law, like Abraham, or during the time of the Law of Moses, like Israel, or not under the Law, like the Gentiles, has always been by faith in God’s promise to bless us in Christ.
Jesus came into the world, as God with us, to urge us to believe in Him for our eternal salvation. What is your response?
[i] The task of any Old Testament prophet could well be summed up by the phrase “stating the obvious.” The kings and people of Israel had been given the Law of Moses and knew full well what their obligations were, yet, as we all do, they routinely fell short of them, and even worked against them. The prophets were called upon by God to state the obvious to Israel, and they were usually thanked for their efforts by being murdered. Few occupations are as dangerous as the prophetic, precisely because they tell people what they already know but don’t want to hear. Nicholas Senz, On the Need to State the Obvious.