Pride Destroys a Witness (2 Chron. 32:25, 31; Isa. 38; 39)
King Hezekiah faced a sentence of death. According to 2 Chronicles 32, the sickness that brought him near the grave happened after a miraculous military victory over the indomitable Assyrians and the exceedingly prideful King Sennacherib. Verse 23 states, “And many brought gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter” (NKJV). This exaltation may have contributed to a giant pride problem.
What did Ruth see in Naomi’s house?
Regardless, God performed another miracle, healing Hezekiah and giving him fifteen more years of life (Isa. 38:5). Yet what did Hezekiah do with his new lease on life? How did he use the treasures, abundance, and accomplishments God blessed him with (cf. 2 Chron. 32:27–30)? 2 Chronicles 32:31 states that God allowed Babylonian princes, from the most powerful nation on earth, to come calling on Hezekiah. This diplomatic visit was Hezekiah’s best opportunity to testify about the God who had blessed him and sent His angel to rout the mighty Assyrian army. “However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon . . . , God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (NKJV). How well did this visit go?
From a diplomatic standpoint, the situation was a great advantage for God’s people; however, God wasn’t as concerned with that. The prophet Isaiah came calling, in Isaiah 39, to ask the penultimate question: “ ‘What have they seen in your house?’ So Hezekiah answered, ‘. . . there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them’ ” (Isa. 39:4, NKJV). But what of the treasure laid up in heaven?
Isaiah next prophesied that all of Hezekiah’s treasures, even his sons, would be carted off to Babylon. This marked a rather infamous ending to his personal legacy, which his pride so informed to the detriment of all else.
A House Set in God’s Order Comes by No Accident (Deut. 6:5–7)
How may we avoid the same end as Hezekiah, who spurned the Lord’s magnanimous offering of 15 more years of life for worldly honor? Deuteronomy 6 contains the well-known statement of Jesus found in the New Testament: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5). A lesser known command is given next, one that pertains to the very core of family life, the upbringing of our children in the Lord along with our daily devotions with God: “And these words . . . shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (verses 6, 7). We can infer from this text that to remain steadfast in the Lord, we need a constant interaction with His Word, either learning it ourselves or teaching it to others in our household. God’s Word is like a shield to defend us against the temptations of pride and worldly honor—those things that felled Hezekiah and his house. The Bible is replete with stories of how the family life, oriented properly around devotion to the Word of God, is like a life belt thrown to an unbelieving family member who is adrift at sea.
What She Saw in a True Witness’s House (Ruth 1)
Little did Elimelech know when he took Naomi and his sons to Moab hoping to escape the famine in his home country that this journey would ultimately result in the salvation of one of his daughters-in-law, a foreigner, who we infer did not previously know God. This foreigner ended up being part of the lineage of the Savior of the world!
Following the deaths of both sons, Naomi’s daughters-in-law wept with her because they did not want to be separated from Naomi. She told them both to return to their homes, where they would be confronted with the idolatry they had left behind. To return to their homes meant to risk forsaking the true God to return to the comfort of the Moabite lifestyle.
While both daughters-in-law weep, Orpah does leave, but Ruth has some strong words and unassailable convictions about Naomi, Ruth’s place in her family, and the truth of the God of heaven: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth was willing to leave everything familiar to her to remain in Naomi’s family because Naomi followed the God of heaven.
Ruth pledged not only to leave behind her home and familiar life but her very life to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God, in effect promising never to return to Moab and its gods: “Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:17). So what did Ruth see in Naomi’s house?
A Final Word Concerning the Importance of Our Home as a Witness
What did Ruth see in Naomi’s house that the Babylonian princes did not see in Hezekiah’s? Both Ruth and the princes of Babylon were foreigners among the Israelites. What if Hezekiah had acted differently? Perhaps some of the Babylonian princes would have converted to follow God. We’re not unfamiliar with Babylonian royalty believing in God, are we? Nebuchadnezzar became a follower of God through Daniel and his three friends’ powerful witness to him over years. We can’t imagine the Bible without the story of Ruth. And it’s in there because of one family’s witness; Ruth saw what was in that house and wanted it for herself. Who will come through our houses, and what will they see?