“Behold the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy…Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield…Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.” Psalm 33:18–22

I remember long ago pondering the idea of faith in the era of the Old Testament. How was an Old Testament saint assured of his eternal state when the Messiah had not been revealed, nor had all His work in His first advent been understood? Surely, I thought, without full knowledge, an Old Testament believer had to labor under a certain amount of uncertainty about heaven and the life hereafter. Does not the New Testament explain that the Law is merely a school master which is designed to show the inadequacy of human effort in the area of salvation? How blessed are we that we get to live on this side of the cross and the resurrection!

Fortunately, I did not lay the chain of thoughts down, especially when a similar ill-informed argument can be made in the Church Age. If “knowing enough” is the prerequisite of saving faith, then who among us can be assured we know enough. Even in this dispensation people struggle with the idea that faith is just that, believing what God said and living in humble, principled obedience.

Faith—saving faith—is just the same in the Dispensation of Law as it is in the Dispensation of Grace. Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” There follows the rest of the chapter naming saint after Old Testament saint as illustrations of authentic faith. Here we find that faith is very dynamic and real, just as God and truth is. But remember, saving faith does not spring unaided from within man, in any age. Saving faith is a product that is initiated by the gracious pursuit of God, at work in the heart of man. Ephesians 2:8ff is quite plain on the matter, just as John 1:12. Hebrews 11:6 explains, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

The revelation of the work of the Messiah is found throughout the pages of the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:15 we see the “First Gospel” following the first occurrence of sin. To Satan God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise [crush] your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This same good news of redemption is traced though the pages of the Bible. Isaiah 53 speaks plainly about the vicarious (substitutionary) death of the Savior. The only cure for man’s sin problem is found in verse 4: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrow; yet we esteemed Him stricken of God and afflicted.” The awful cost of our sin problem is in verse 5, “But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Then the personal consequence of our sin problem is seen in verse 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Verses 10–12 detail the work of the suffering Messiah: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin…for He shall bear their iniquities.” The Gospel truth is plainly seen in these words to be believed, trusted, claimed, and obeyed. The object of faith is still the same, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And the significance is just the same; for saving faith is not a static accomplishment like a graduation or trophy would be. It is rather a dynamic force in the life of a believer, just as a career or a profession is to an individual.

Our passage found in Psalm 33 is an apt illustration of what a dynamic engine faith is for any saint in any age. There are at least eight defining principles found in these five verses. The first of which is the fact that there is only one Lord recognized by the man of faith. This principle is found three times, in verses 18, 20, and 22. The true God, Jehovah, stands alone; there is none like Him and no other God. He deserves all of life’s focus and is the source of all life. Jehovah’s name is mentioned three times.

From the significance of Jehovah in the life of the believer, all the other principles unfold. We learn that the man of faith has only one reverence (Psalm 33:18): fear God; only one treasure (verses 18, 22): the mercy of God; only one sustainer (verse 19); only one focus (verse 20): setting his hope on the Lord; only one option (verse 21): there is no real hope or help from any other quarter; only one knowledge (verse 21): one Person to really know; and only one prayer (verse 22): “May we enjoy, O LORD, Your faithful care, as we have put our hope in You!”