The House Church in the Old Testament (Part 3)

Elimelech and Naomi (Ruth 1)

Elimelech and Naomi established a house church in Moab.  The house church originally consisted of only Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.  These two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, who became members of the family and the house church.

The house church was established out of necessity.  The Moabites and Israelites had a long history of disagreement (Num. 22-24; Deut. 23:3-4).  The Moabites worshipped Chemosh and the female deity Ashtar-Chemosh.  In order to protect his family from idolatry Elimelech instructed his sons in the promises and ways of the Lord.  Ruth testified to the power of their witness when she said, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (1:17)

The story of Ruth testifies to the universal nature of the church as we have seen elsewhere.  God invites all people to be members of his family.  The Lord even uses all kinds of people to implement his plan of salvation as was the case with Ruth who gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of King David (4:17-22).


The Book of Esther makes no reference to God, worship, prayer or sacrifice.  Yet from the devotion displayed by Esther and Mordecai one can assume implicitly that they continued to nourish their faith through regular worship of God.  It is doubtful that synagogues existed in Persia at this time.  Thus it might be conjectured that the Israelites met at Mordecai’s home or some other prominent Jew to pray, to worship, and be to reminded of God’s promises.  His house church witnessed to the Persians of the promises of the Lord.


Job lived in the land of Uz — a foreign land.  He was surrounded by people who worshipped false gods.  Yet, he established a church in his home and raised his children to know the Lord.  Even after he lost everything he possessed Job refused to curse God and die (2:9-10).  Job remained faithful to the Lord until the end.  He prayed for his friends and was blessed with additional children whom he raised to know the Lord (42:12-17).


Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, formed a house church in Babylon.  In chapter 2:17 Daniel returned to his house and explained the predicament that he faced — he must interpret the dream of Nebuchadnezzar or face death.  Daniel pleaded with his three friends to “plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.” (2:18) The men spent the night in prayer and during the night God answered their prayers by revealing the mystery to Daniel.  Daniel then had a chance to witness of the Lord’s work to Nebuchadnezzar (2:27-28).  Nebuchadnezzar responded with a grand confession of Daniel’s God (2:47) and appointed Daniel and his friends to prestigious positions (2:48-49).

In chapter 6 Daniel is portrayed as praying in his home in the direction of Jerusalem three times a day (10-11).  In this case it appears that only Daniel was the one praying to the Lord but we may assume that Daniel’s home served as a center for worship for Daniel and his fellow believers since he was a leader in the Jewish community in Babylon.  It might be conjectured that Daniel wrote down his visions and then shared his visions from God in house church meetings with the other Jews who were in exile (7:1-2) who shared these promises with their Babylonian masters.



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