Did Old Testament believers have any expectation of a Divine Messiah?

When I was recently asked that question, my instinctive reaction was to say “No.”

The Old Testament believers knew that the Messiah would be a man, that he would suffer, and that he would be glorified after his sufferings (Gen. 3:15; Luke 24:25-27; 1 Peter 1:11-13). But they did not know that he would be God.

Or did they?

As I thought more about this, I began to realize that there were some clear Old Testament indications that the Messiah would indeed be God.

1. The many Angel of the Lord appearances in which the Son of God comes to earth in human form (not human flesh yet), stunning some of His people into the realization that they had just seen God (Genesis 16:13; Judges 13:22).

2. Isaiah’s prophecies of the Messiah being called “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14) and “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).

3. God’s constantly expressed desire to dwell near to and among His people in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. Whatever else these two structures taught, it was that God loved to live with and like His people.

4. The conversation between the LORD and the Lord in Messianic Psalm 110.

5. Hebrews chapter one quotes the Old Testament seven times to prove the deity of the Messiah. Surely that wan’t just with hindsight.

6. In Zechariah 12:10, the Lord says “They will look on me whom they pierced.”

Perhaps all this explains the readiness of the wise men, Simeon, and Anna, to worship the infant Jesus.

Of course, just as in the New Testament, “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Spiritual enlightenment was still needed to believe these verses and put them all together with the rest of the Old Testament revelation.

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  • Theo K

    Excellent post!

    And we also have Jer 23:5-6

    I have a similar question, do we have any clear indication that OT believers knew that the promised divine Messiah was one and the same with the angel of the Lord?

    Many thanks!

    • Rick Koenig

      That’s a good question,Theo. I hope Dr. Murray or someone will address it. I would think they might not see a distinction or even a need for any such distinction, just “God’s presence.”

  • Rick Koenig

    I have a related question. In Chapter 8 in the section “Confidence In Jesus” we find these statements:

    “Of course, Old Testament faith was shadow faith, but shadow implies at least some light. They did not see as much as New Testament Christians, they did not have as much of the Holy Spirit, and they did not have as much assurance of the Father’s love, but they had at least shadow versions of them.”

    I think we can all agree that the faith shown by Abraham, Job, and many others was deep, bedrock faith graciously placed in them by God. (Hebrews 11 lists many.) My Sunday School class questioned this construction by Dr. Murray; the part that was particularly troublesome was the implication that the Holy Spirit was with-held to some extend. Clearly the Holy Spirit was present in these lives and in many others, in more than sufficient measure to accomplish God’s will.

    So in what sense was it restrained, and, further, how can we say they didn’t have as much assurance of the Father’s love?

    • Andrew Patton

      Because they were still afflicted by the sin of Adam, and for this reason, the Holy Spirit did not dwell within them and make them His Temples. He gave them enough of the Holy Spirit to be saved and in some cases to prophesy and work miracles, but their sins were not blotted out until the Cross. For this reason, though they were righteous, they could not enter Heaven until Christ died, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Thus were their sins absolved, they were liberated from the netherworld, and the gates of Heaven opened unto them. Now that Christ the Paschal Lamb has been slain and raised, we who are baptized into His death have been purified from the sin of Adam, and the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell within us.

  • Scott Doherty

    Micha 5:2 “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
    The ruler of God’s people who would be born in Bethlehem was eternal – “from everlasting”. The only Being who is from everlasting is God.