Can This Be Naomi?
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

Can This Be Naomi?

From Series: God of the Ordinary

Ruth 1:1  (ID: 2235)

Loss, grief and loneliness can change a person. No one knew this better than Naomi. After moving to a foreign country with her family to escape a famine, she lost her husband and two sons. A pleasant woman with a full life had left Bethlehem. Now she returns as an empty, grieving widow. Even her friends and neighbors don’t recognize her. But she is not forgotten or without hope. God’s plan is just starting to unfold.


Sermon Transcript:

I would like to ask you to take your Bible again and turn to Ruth with me, if you would. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth. You say, “Well, how did we get to Ruth?” Well, I have to confess to you that this is a book that I have never, ever touched. I have never preached one verse out of the book of Ruth—not because I haven’t wanted to, because I’ve wanted to; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started an outline of a series of studies in Ruth, only to throw it away very, very quickly before it ever saw the light of day. Indeed, I have nothing at all by way of outline; I only have what I have in front of me. A few Sunday nights ago, someone came up to me at the end of worship and said, “Hey, by the way, when are we ever going back to the Old Testament? We seem to be stalled in the New Testament.” I said, “Well, we’ll go back to the Old Testament as soon as I can.” And this is as soon as I can.

And so we’re going to take these evenings to look at this book of Ruth together. I’m not sure just how far we’ll get this evening. And when Derek Prime was here some years ago, he gave a talk, and he said—and I thought it was a very novel way of introducing it—he said, “The address that I have to give you today will have something about it of what fresh bread would have.” Don’t you remember he said that? But it’s just come out, and it hasn’t fully formed, and it hasn’t fully, you know, settled, but I think it’ll be tasty, nevertheless. Well, I’d like to apply that analogy to what we’re about to go through now. And we better pray, as we always do, and ask God to help and guide us.

Father, thank you that all Scripture is inspired by you, the living God, and is profitable for correction and for reproof, for training in righteousness, so that we might, as men and women of God, be thoroughly equipped for every good work.[1] We pray that as we turn to this ancient story, this historic record, as we’re introduced to the lives of these individuals from a time so long ago and so far away, that you will help us first of all to get an inkling of who they were and what you were doing with them and for them and through them, and then that we might discover the way in which that has application to us tonight as, on the edge of the twenty-first century, we seek to take these ancient words to heart and mind and life. So then, quicken us and help us, we pray; we desperately need that, and so we humbly seek you. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Well, you could safely say that Bethlehem was buzzing. If you allow your eye to look down at verse 19 or so, you realize that the word that was zipping round this small community was simply this: “Naomi is back.” It had been some time—it had been over a decade—since this lady, in the company of her husband Elimelech and her two sons, had headed out at a time of famine into the land of the Moabites. There is nothing within the record of the book to tell us that there was any contact maintained in the intervening years. Indeed, it would seem from the response of the people that they were trying to determine that the lady’s face that they now saw, which presumably bore the impact of these intervening years—the bereavements, the relocations, the peculiar challenges—that this lady’s face was actually the face of their old friend Naomi. And the question “Can this be Naomi?” presumably was a question that they were asking one another.

Here in Bethlehem, among the hills of Judah, in the same location where, afterwards, David as a shepherd boy would be looking after the sheep; in the same location where, afterwards, shepherds also looking after sheep would hear the words of the angels announcing the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ; it is in this same location that these events unfold that are recorded for us in these few chapters of Ruth.

Now, a quick glance, for your homework, backwards and a quick glance forwards will give you the immediate context in which we find this lovely little book. If you go back the way, you come to the story of the judges; if you go forward, you come to the events surrounding the life of Samuel. And in the midst of these very dramatic and dark eras, we have this wonderful story, this record of God’s dealings, in such a way as to remind people in every generation that no matter how dark and dramatic the events of life may appear to be, that God still has his people, is still working his purposes out, and is often choosing to do so in places that we would regard as very unlikely, and is choosing to do so in such a quiet fashion that those of us who tend to believe that the dramatic and the loud is the significant are caused to wonder whether God is doing anything at all.

Now, the historic identification is there in the opening phrase of the book, “In the days when the judges ruled.” The “Judges Period” is approximately from 1200 BC to 1020 BC. The period of the judges is essentially the time between the death of Joshua, which you have recorded in [Judges] 1:1, and the coronation of Saul, which is recorded in 1 Samuel 10.[2] It’s not my purpose to sketch in all of that background; it would take a long time, and it really isn’t germane to what we’re doing. But when you read that period, you will discover that it was an era of frightful social and religious chaos. It was pandemonium. One commentator says, “The book of Judges teems with violent invasions, apostate religion, unchecked lawlessness, and tribal civil war.”[3] And frankly, that’s putting it mildly. If you go home and read, for example, this week the story of Judges—some of you may have been doing so as a result of reading the Murray M’Cheyne program through the year—you know that the commentator is certainly not guilty of hyperbole. But it is in that period, in the days when the judges ruled, that we’re told the backdrop was then compounded by the arrival of a famine.

Famine

Now, all we’re told is that “there was a famine in the land.” We’re not told if it was caused as a result of the intervention of the warring parties on the borders, or whether it was simply, if you like, a natural occurrence. But nevertheless, the response of one man to the circumstances of that time was to determine that he would go in search of food elsewhere. Now, again, you have to understand that the events of the famine had hit a lot of people. And they would’ve been coming down to breakfast in the morning and saying to one another, “Well, I wonder if any of the stores will be open today? I wonder if we’ll manage to get any wheat today? I wonder if the barley or the olive supply will be down as it was yesterday? Mom, I’m hungry; Dad, I’m dreadfully hungry. Isn’t there somewhere that we can go and get food?”

And so it is that Elimelech, we’re told, this “man from Bethlehem in Judah,” taking his wife and his two sons “went to live”—notice—“for a while in the country of Moab.” The very terminology seems to suggest that he didn’t intend to go there for the rest of his life—although, as it turned out, it was. He told his friends and neighbors, presumably, that pragmatism was going to have to control his life, and it was important for him to provide for his wife and his children, and therefore, he’d have to make a run for it and see what he could get.

And so off he went, away from Bethlehem in Judah, “six miles south of Jerusalem, on the eastern ridge of the central mountain range”—some of you have been there—“just east of the main highway [that joins] … Hebron [to] Beersheba.”[4] A significant place in all of biblical history, known best, of course, for the arrival of the Lord Jesus. But try as best as you can to get your mind into this: here in a small community are families, mums and dads and children, living out their life in the midst, and in some senses isolated from, the rampant chaos that is going on all around them—preserving family values; maintaining ancestral religion; seeking to do things, if you like, by the Book; nurturing one another in the things of Yahweh. And out of this community goes this individual—incidentally, leaving behind a town called Bethlehem; the meaning of the word is “house of bread.” And ironically, he has to leave the house of bread because of an absence of bread and go in search of it elsewhere.

It would appear that the author of Ruth is very, very interested in the names, for each of these names has significance. Elimelech actually means “the Lord is my King.” The sons’ names, Kilion and Mahlon, are not dissimilar from two other words which actually mean “sickly” and “pining.” Now, you must assume that he didn’t choose these names: “And here’s our first boy; why don’t we call him ‘sickly’? And then, now that we’ve got a second one, why don’t we call him ‘pining’?” But it just so happens that the very names that they were given would make it possible for people to identify them in that way. And there is every indication, as a result of what we read a little later on, that these characters may actually have been both sickly and pining: as a result of their sorry pilgrimage, we read of their premature death.

God’s presence, according to the Jew, was distinctly in the land of Israel. God had promised his people that he would meet with them there.

Now, the fact that this man would decide to head out of here is really a quite astonishing decision. The reason it is astonishing is twofold, or the reasons are twofold. First of all, because God’s presence, according to the Jew, was distinctly in the land. God had promised his people that he would meet with them there. They had symbols of the abiding presence of God. If ever there was a place where they could meet with God, if ever there was a place where God would provide for them, then surely it was in the land that he had given to them. Therefore, for this man, whose name means “the Lord is my King,” to head out to a foreign place at least raises the question in our minds as to whether he really was trusting in the kingship of his God at this point or not, or whether he was tempted to go off and try and take matters into his own hands. The second reason that it is so striking is because the people of Moab had actually been told by God to his people as a raw bunch of individuals, and therefore he had encouraged them to avoid the people of Moab: “Don’t spend time with the people of Moab; don’t get involved with the people of Moab.” If you doubt that, you can read it in Deuteronomy 23, in 2 Kings 3, in Numbers 21, and so on.

Now, before we stand in judgment of Elimelech, we recognize that a father has a responsibility to provide for his children. And therefore, he must have said, “We can only last here a very small time longer, and I think the best thing we can do is get up and go in search of bread somewhere else.” And so we see him heading out at the end of verse 2: “And they went to Moab and [they] lived there.” You notice the advance in terminology; they were going to go to Moab and “live for a while” there. The description at the end of verse 2 is a far more settled description. “And they went to Moab, and they actually lived there.” It wasn’t so much that they were just popping in to see if there was any bread, or barley, or olives, or grapes, and then they were going home, but they had actually settled down there. Moab was and is a mountainous region on the east side of the Dead Sea. It had a particularly fertile plateau that ran for about twenty-five miles, and also was several thousand feet up above the sea’s eastern shore.[5] And it was to this region, as a result of famine, that Elimelech takes his wife and sons.

Bereavement

So, in my notes, all I wrote down for the first two verses was famine, and then that. Then I wrote down the word bereavement as we come to verse 3. You may want to have these as headings. Bereavement. “Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.” So the security and the protection that Elimelech had been seeking for his family never materialized. In fact, he dies, leaving his wife a widow. She fortunately has two sons—and unfortunately, she is about to lose them.

However, as is true in family life, the loss of her husband would have been mitigated in some sense by the prospect of the weddings. There is always joy in weddings, and they must have looked forward to the day with great anticipation. And one was married, and then another, and the weddings themselves would do something to soothe her grief. Many of us have been there. In the absence of a loved one, there has been that bittersweet day—the wish that they could have been present, and yet at the same time the great joy and the unfolding of the marriage. Naomi would have lived through all those emotions. And, of course, with marriage comes the prospect of grandchildren. And so she would have been able to drop over for the equivalent of coffee, and inquire in the discreet way that mother-in-laws do as to whether there’s any kind of activity in the offing and whether she might be hearing the sound of tiny feet any time soon.

But she could not have imagined the tragedy that would then unfold. Not only does she have no grandchildren—none are born to these couples in a period of some ten years—but she actually finds herself without her children, inasmuch as her sons “Mahlon and Kilion also died.” And so, verse 3: “She was left with her two sons”—she’s down now to two—and then, at the end of verse 5, she “was left without her two sons and her husband.”

And a sorry scene it is: a lonely widow, living in a foreign country, without either the protection and provision of a husband or that which may come by way of her sons in a male-dominated society. It’s a hopeless setup. And as the story unfolds, as the readers read the story—and some of you have never read this story in your life—you’re inevitably saying to yourself, “Well, I wonder what’s going to happen here. Is there going to be, out of the tragedy of these events, a triumph which God brings? Is this going to be,” some of the early readers would’ve said, “a similar story to the story of Joseph, who was so poorly treated by his brothers, who was strapped on the back of a camel, who was shipped off into exile, and yet by means of that, God was providing for his people so that they would not die in the famine? Is that the kind of thing that’s going to happen? Is this the kind of story that we have with Moses and the children of Israel in the exodus?” And of course, she herself must have been saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to do now; I really don’t know what the future holds.” She faces her declining years with no children to care for her and no grandchildren to cheer her up. Naomi.

Who’s to know whether she thought it was a great idea to go to Moab or not? Who’s to know the discussions that took place in the family room before they left? Did she say to Elimelech, “Elimelech, I don’t know if I really want to go to Moab.” And he said, “Oh, come on, I think it’s the best thing to do.” Or was she the champion of it? Did she lead the charge? Did she say, “You know, Elimelech, I think we should get out of here and go to Moab”? If it was the former, then she would, of course, have reason to sit and say, “I wish I hadn’t listened to him.” And if was the latter, then she would have reason to sit and say, “I wish he hadn’t listened to me.” But whether the former or the latter, she now sits alone, an alien in a strange land, driven from her home by famine, robbed of her loved ones by death.

And the most significant part of this, which will unfold as we continue our study, is this: that one of Israel’s family units totters on the brink of extinction. And if there was one thing that was a shame in the nation of Israel, it was that your family line would come to an end. And that is exactly what she faces. Her husband’s gone, her boys are dead, she’s too old to get married again. If there were to be any prospect at all of any kind of offspring in these amazing odds, then it would have to be a work of God! So we read on.

Return

Famine, bereavement, return. Verse 6: “When she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them…” Somehow or another, the news was getting back from home. Here’s a little ray of sunshine in the darkness: God is intervening in providing his people with food.

We ought not to be too quick just to jump over that in our highly technological society. This is not something that ancient people believed; this is something that God’s people believe.

I am thoroughly impressed, as I’m sure you are, at the ability of these vast superstores to know how many jars of pickle they still have on their shelves without looking. I am constantly amazed at the ability of the trucks to show up right on cue at the absolutely correct bay, with the right requisite number of toilet rolls to fit the space on the bay that has been left by the absence of the aforementioned, without any human being interfering in it in any way at all. All done by the ability of the computer to read the number of times that you bought Colgate toothpaste in the space of four weeks, thereby sending the message to somewhere, which sent it to somewhere else, which meant that the truck should be dispatched, which meant that the door should be opened, which meant that the bread should, of course, be back on the shelf. And so we say, “My, my, my, isn’t technology a wonderful thing?”

It would have been strange, of course, wouldn’t it, to have lived in the days when we actually believed that the Lord came to the aid of his people by providing food for them. He still does. He still does. Ultimately, it is God who stocks the shelves. It is God who stocks the shelves. Just a word to the ladies, and to the men who are helping their wives out and playing their part and doing a little stroll up and down the aisles. It is a wonderful exercise, you know, if you go early in the morning or late in the evening—I detest any other time—and you engage in this exercise, as you take things off the shelf, just at least under your breath, if not audibly, to thank God for his provision: “I thank you for another box of Cheerios, God. Without you, there would be no Cheerios. Thank you, Father, for milk. Thank you for orange juice; I love orange juice. Thank you, Father, for eggs. Thank you, Father, that you come to the aid of your people.”

Nobody ought to walk up and down the aisles of a supermarket with a greater sense of amazement and gratitude than the Christian! For we know from whence this comes.

See, “something lives in every hue [that] Christless eyes have never seen.”[6] Nobody ought to walk up and down the aisles of a supermarket with a greater sense of amazement and gratitude than the Christian! For we know from whence this comes. “This is the Lord’s doing; [and] it is marvelous in our eyes.”[7] So the word comes to Naomi: “God has intervened. The food is back on the shelves. Things are picking up at home.” She would’ve been glad to sing the children’s harvest hymn:

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heav’n above;
[So] thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all his love.

He only is the [Giver]
Of all things near and far;
He [clothes the morning] flower,
He lights the evening star[8]

and so on. I love that hymn. I can’t remember any more of it now. But we have to remember to keep singing those hymns as well, you see, because otherwise we’ll get unhinged here—reminding us of who God is and what he does.

And when she heard that God was doing this, she said, “Well, I’m going home.” And we read that “Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.” She leads the exodus. It was customary in a context like this, even if the daughters-in-law were not planning on coming the whole way with her, that they would make the journey out of town with her. It has much to do with the kind of things about which we’ve spoken before concerning the nature of parting, the nature of good-byes, the appropriateness of taking your leave of somebody else. And unlike customary American procedure, whereby when you turn around to say good-bye for a second time to the person to whom you just said good-bye about a nanosecond previously, the door is closed in your face and they’re gone, or the car has gone speeding up the road. I’ve lost touch of how many times I stood like an idiot at the airport, waving to the person who dropped me off, only to discover, apparently, he had done his business sometime before and had no interest in ever waving to me again. I think he was so glad to get rid of me and my wretched belongings that he couldn’t take off fast enough.

Well, that’s not the case here in this kind of context. She’s going down the road, and so they’re going down the road; it’s just the done thing. Of course, there’s the added question here, “Will the daughters-in-law go the whole way down the road?” Because she’s on her way to Judah, she’s on her way to Bethlehem. She’s been sitting for some time now singing the Paul Simon song, “Homeward bound I wish I was.”[9] And now she’s going.

So she gets somewhere down the road; we’re not told exactly where. In verse 8, she said to her two daughters-in-law, “You go back now.” Presumably, she got far away from Moab to ensure that they couldn’t urge her to stay. If she tried to say good-bye to them in the front room, as it were, or in the front garden, they might’ve said to her, “You know what? Things are really fine here; please don’t leave.” But if she could get far enough down the road to have already distanced herself from those emotional ties, but not so far down the road that she wouldn’t be able legitimately to say to her daughters-in-law, “Now, look, we’re a way down the road, but we’re not so far down the road that you can’t go back”…

“I want you to go back,” she says. “Go back to your mother’s house, to your mother’s home, each of you.” Now, isn’t that an interesting sentence? “Go back … to your mother’s home.” How many times have you found that sentence in the Bible? You say, “I never saw it in the Bible in my life.” You’re right. There’s only three occasions that I could find it; there may be more, but I don’t think so. Most customarily, it is, “Go back to your father’s house.” It’s usually the father’s house, right? She says, “Go back to your mother’s house.”

Well, what are we to make of this? Well, the only thing that I could discover was this: that this phraseology apparently has some connotation in relationship to love and to marriage. In fact, the translation may actually be, “Go back to your mother’s bedroom.” Because there is some indication at the time that when there was the consummation of an arranged marriage, it was somehow directly related to the mother’s part in it all. And what she’s saying to these girls is this: “Listen, if you come down the road with me, there’s no prospect for you down this road. Why don’t you just turn around now and go back to your mother’s house?”

And she frees them. That’s essentially what’s she’s doing: “May the Lord show checed to you”—that’s his grace, his mercy, his kindness. “You’ve shown checed to me, to your dead, the way that you’ve looked after me. You could’ve gone off and got married again,” she said. “I understand that. As soon as my boys were dead, you could’ve said, ‘Well, we’re done with her; we don’t need a mother-in-law, in any case. We can get on with our lives.’” She said, “But you’ve been so kind to me. Now,” she says, “May the Lord grant that each of you”—the two of you—“that you will both find rest in the home of another husband.”

“I’m not gonna be able to show kindness to you any longer,” she said, “Let God show kindness to you. And I pray for you the rest and the stability and the fulfillment that remarriage will provide.” And then she said to them, “Come here.” And “she kissed them,” and then—just what you would expect with three women—they all start crying like crazy, you know. Now, that’s the only silly statement that I’m going to make this evening; I just couldn’t resist that. It’s such a wonderful story in relationship to women. It’s a unique story in many ways, in that we have a woman center stage for nearly all of it. But we understand the emotion: “She kissed them … they wept aloud … [they] said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’” So they protest.

And then in verse 11 and following—and I must hasten on, because I don’t want to stay here all night, neither do you—Naomi said, “Listen, let me say it to you again: go home my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who would become your husbands?” Now, there’s a sense in which of course she’s not going to have any more sons that would become their husbands. She’s already well on. She makes the point, she says, “Even if I had a husband tonight…” In other words, “If we got the whole thing started this evening, and we waited for nine months, and then we had two sons, and then we waited eighteen or seventeen years until they grew up, you know, what do you think the chances of that are?” In other words, “Be sensible,” she says. “This isn’t going to happen. And furthermore, would you wait till they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them?”

“No,” she says, “[you need to understand,] my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you”—now look at this phrase in verse 13—“because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me.” Interesting! In verse 20, when she gets back into the village—and we’ll come to that another time—she says, “Don’t call me Naomi. … Call me Mara, because [El-Shaddai]”—that’s the word there, El-Shaddai—“has made my life very bitter.” Far from any notion of this taking God by surprise: “Oh, look what’s happened to Naomi!” “No,” she says, “God has providentially been overruling all these things in my life. The exile, in obedience to my husband. The famine, which was the precursor to the exile. The bereavement—the loss of my husband, the loss of my boys. Childlessness. And who knows what else might be in store for me? Therefore, think it out, girls. You don’t want to come with me! After all, the Lord’s hand has gone out against me.”

And “at this they wept again.” Do you get something of the pathos of this scene? These are people that love one another. Their lives are interwoven with one another. They’ve gone shopping together. They’ve lived through loss together. They’ve wept at the loss of these sons together and husbands together. Their lives are completely interwoven with one another. And now Naomi is saying, “Now I’m going back to Bethlehem, and girls, please… please, go back.”

And then we’re told that although “they wept again. … Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.” In other words, Orpah did, if you like, the expected and the sensible thing. She put the pieces of the puzzle together. She said, “You know what? You’re right. I’m going home.” Ruth put the pieces of the puzzle together and said, “You’re right. I’m not going home. I’m staying with you. I accept everything that you’ve told me. I appreciate every prompting that you’ve given me.” But Ruth chooses to abandon the known, the familiar, for the unknown. In every realistic sense, on the basis of her mother-in-law’s word to her, she gives up the prospect of marriage to cling to an aged, hopeless mother-in-law. And in verse 15, Naomi tries one more time; she says, “Hey listen, look, your sister-in-law’s not too far up the road. She’s on her way back. Why don’t you go and catch her up. If you run, you can catch her. Here’s a further chance! Go on, make a run for it now! She’s going back to her people and her gods.”

Uh-huh. You see, if ever there was a turnkey, that must’ve been it for Ruth. She understood exactly that this was not about geography, that this was not ultimately about emotion—that this was ultimately about her life and her destiny and her faith and her belief and her trust and her heaven and her hell. She realized that to go back up that road into the Moabite community, given all that she had now understood from Naomi and Elimelech of the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, would be for her to turn her back on everything she had come to discover as truth, and it would definitely be not only to go back to her people but to go back to her gods. And so she says—and I don’t think I can quote it exactly from the King James, I don’t have it here; but it’s far better in the King James than anything in any of these modern translations could do—“Intreat me not to leave thee, [n]or to return from following after thee: for where thou goest, I will go; and where thou [dwellest] I will [dwell]: thy people will be my people, and thy God my God: [And] where thou diest, [I will] die, and [where thou art buried I will] be buried.”[10] “I’m with you, Naomi, all the way through time, and I will sleep with you, as it were, in the grave, and I will rise with you in eternity.”

Jesus stands in the valley of decision, and he says to men and women, ‘Do you want to be my disciple, or do you want to return to your people and your own gods?’

And suddenly fast-forward it down through the corridors of time, and watch as Jesus stands in the valley of decision, and he says to men and women, “Do you want to be my disciple, or do you want to return to your people and your own gods? Who is there,” he says, “who will forsake his father and his mother and everything that he knows that represents security?”—all that represents orthodoxy and stability for her in her life. “Which girl is there, then, will stand up and follow after me? Who will make the words of Ruth the words of commitment to Christ? ‘Where you go, Jesus, I’m going. Though none should join me, still I will follow.’”[11]

“I have decided to follow Naomi,” says Ruth. And it points forward to the valley of decision—a valley in which each of us stands this evening, and each of us stands on a daily basis. Am I going to go back to my people and my gods, or am I going to follow the way of truth?

“[And] when Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. [And] so the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. [And] when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred. … And the women [said], ‘Can this be Naomi?’” Then the story continues from there. It’s a great story. At least I like it.

Let’s pray:

Father, in a day and time when commitment’s hard to find, we’re tempted to bounce between opinions, to blow hot and cold in our convictions about truth. When our allegiances in human friendship ebb and flow—when people don’t know where they stand with us because one day we’re this way, the next day we’re another way—we marvel as the mirror of your Word confronts us with this beautiful pastoral scene and this striking encounter between these women. Father, teach us from your Word all the things that matter and all the things that are important, and grant to us the spirit of faith and humility and tenacity and dependence, such as is displayed in these immense words of Ruth.

We know, Lord, as from reading the story on, that you more than honored her commitment, ’cause there’s “no good thing [that you] will withhold from [those who] walk uprightly.”[12] That when we delight ourselves in the Lord, you will give us the desires of our hearts.[13] That when we seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, all the other stuff is added unto us.[14] I pray that you’d burn this into our lives as we think about our retirements, and how much money we have, and where we’re going to stay; as we think about our middle years, and what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to spend our time; as we think about our college careers, and what it really means to get a degree and to find employment. Lord, mark us out as different. May we be those who are unreservedly committed to you.

We thank you that out of this union that was to follow was to come the progenitor of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, so that this little encounter on the street between the Jew and the Gentile was not a passing fancy, but it was, under your providential care, vital—crucial—in the arrival of Jesus. Teach us, then, that all our days and all our deeds matter for something and for someone when we’re prepared to walk humbly before you. And we thank you that you are sovereign over these affairs, and that when the day ends here and the dawn breaks somewhere else, that Jesus Christ’s name is praised and honored. And again, we thank you for the privilege of adding our voices to the chorus, as we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.


[1] See 2 Timothy 3:16–17.

[2] Robert L. Hubbard Jr., The Book of Ruth, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 84.

[3] Hubbard, 84.

[4] Hubbard, 68.

[5] Hubbard, 85–86.

[6] George W. Robinson, “Loved with Everlasting Love” (1890).

[7] Psalm 118:23 (KJV).

[8] Matthias Claudius, trans. Jane M. Campbell, “We Plow the Fields” (1782/1861).

[9] Paul Simon, “Homeward Bound” (1966).

[10] Ruth 1:16–17 (KJV).

[11] Anonymous, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Lyrics lightly altered.

[12] Psalm 84:11 (KJV).

[13] See Psalm 37:4.

[14] See Matthew 6:33.

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.