“Why Has This Happened to Me?” (Cancer Support Dinner)
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“Why Has This Happened to Me?” (Cancer Support Dinner)

Ruth 1:1–22  (ID: 3613)

God’s providence is a difficult doctrine to grapple with amid suffering. Speaking at Parkside’s Cancer Support Dinner, Alistair Begg reminds us that like Naomi, who acknowledged God’s providence alongside her bitter pain, we ought to be honest about our circumstances without feeling that we have given up on God by doing so. God was working in the particulars of Naomi’s life as well as in the broad strokes of history to accomplish His will. At the end of her story, and of ours, is the promise of a Savior.

Series Containing This Sermon

Dangers, Toils, and Snares

How to Find Peace amid Life’s Greatest Trials Series ID: 22702


Sermon Transcript: Print

What I want to do is read part of the story of Ruth in a moment or two. But before I get to that, as—just talking about Chattanooga and so on—as we move around the world, it’s not uncommon to hear just bystanders say, “Is there anybody in charge around here?” You know, whatever it might be—in business or in education or in airports, in the grocery stores: “Is anyone in charge around here?” And the feeling—the prevailing feeling—that somehow or another the world seems just to spin, and unless there is some place we can go, some answer we can find, then the journey through life is a perilous journey. And if we don’t have a foundation for navigating that journey, then we’re all in need of one. And I think there is an openness on the part of men and women to consider the claims of anybody who can offer the suggestion that we’re not living in a random universe.

And of course, that is the testimony of the Christian. And if we’ve been involved in church for any length of time, we’ve learned at least a few verses, and we know that Romans 8:28 declares the fact that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose[s]”[1]—in other words, that God, who created the universe, is providentially sustaining the universe and is working everything, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, according to the counsel of his will.[2]

The big word for that, of course—the theological word for that—is the word providence, which really finds its genesis in Genesis 22, where you remember the story of Abraham and Isaac, and Isaac says to Abraham, “Well, we seem to have everything here, but we don’t have a lamb for the sacrifice.” And the answer that Abraham gives to his son is “God will provide a lamb”[3]—that we can trust the providence of God.

And that, of course, extends not just to the huge, big pieces of the movements of the world, but it actually extends, the Bible says, to the intricate details of our lives, and that God is immediately and consistently involved in the ebb and flow of all that comes our way—which, of course, is a relatively easy doctrine to handle when the things that are coming our way seem to be very pleasant, seem to go in line with our hopes and with our dreams, seem to fulfill the longings of our hearts. And then suddenly, one day, that doesn’t actually fit anymore. Suddenly, one day, there is a diagnosis, or one day there is one of those routine blood tests that turn out not to be routine. And it is on that day, as we have faced it, that each of us then have to determine whether we actually believe in this God who is working even the details of our lives out according to his purposes.

And it is an unusual thing if in an event like that we do not at least at some point ask the question, “Why is this happening?” “Why is this happening?” Not just “Why is anything happening?” but “Why is this happening?” And in a vast majority of cases, the answer to that question has got very little to do with the “this.” Because God is working in a variety of circumstances of which the “this” may only be a very small part.

Furthermore, that God is always working in a variety of lives, so that when we add to the “Why is this happening?” we add “to me”: “Why is this happening to me?” Again, the answer to that may actually have very little to do with the “me” and have a tremendous amount to do with the lives of other people.

God is immediately and consistently involved in the ebb and flow of all that comes our way.

Now, that’s not simply the case in relationship to the concerns of physical illness—cancer in specific, as we’re here this evening. But it is true also… Sue and I are dealing with a lady who’s in jail at the moment. And when we first encountered this lady, her question was exactly that question: “Why is this happening to me? Why would God allow this to happen to me?” Two and a half years later, she now finds herself in jail, she has resolved that question by the grace of God, she has come to an understanding of the goodness of God, and she is now testifying to the impact that the grace of God is having on the relatives in her family who, when she first was sentenced, were asking the very same question. But you see, what God is doing in her mom’s life and in her aunt’s life is directly related to what has happened in her life.

So, God is at work in a variety of lives. He’s at work in a variety of ways. He is at work in a variety of circumstances. And of course, the classic illustration of that, when you start your Bible, is the story of Joseph. You know that Joseph’s dad doted on him. He bought him a special coat. Joseph had various dreams in the evening, and he liked to get up at breakfast time and tell his brothers—especially the ones where they had to bow down before him. And as a result of that, he is stripped naked and sold into slavery, with every reason to ask the question, “Why is this happening to me?”

The enslavement on the part of his brothers was due to their own animosity. The purchase that was made by the slave traders was due to their entrepreneurial skill. The context in which he found himself was directly related to the ebb and flow and movements of the various pieces involved in the puzzle. But when it finally comes to the end of the story, when you get to the end in chapter 45 and then on to 50, and he reveals himself to his brothers, he says the most unbelievable thing. You will perhaps recall it. He says to them, “Do[n’t] be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life”[4]—that God knew, not interfering in any way but sweeping into the eternal counsel of his will a plan that would involve the famine-stricken family of Jacob in being restored. What a strange and wonderful way to do that!

A Woman of Faith

Now, you’re saying to yourself, “Well, I thought—we’re getting to the end of the talk, and you haven’t even started it, because you wanted to do Ruth.” Well, you can just put your hand up at any point, and I will stop. That will be fine. It’s okay. I will be glad to do so, and it won’t be the first time that people have been putting their hands up.

But I decided I wanted to do Ruth. Don’t you love stories? I mean, incidentally, when we say something is a story, that doesn’t mean it’s a fairytale. It means it’s an unfolding story. It’s a great story. And arguably, the four chapters of Ruth are one of the finest short stories that exists in all of literature. And I want to read just chapter 1. I’m going make a few comments, and then, as Edd Tate Parker used to say—I just thought of him just now because I thought of Tennessee—at our elders’ meeting, he used to say, “I’m gonna say my piece, and then I’m gonna hush.” So that’s the plan from this point on, okay?

I’m going to read it in The Message. For those of you who are offended by that, get over it.

“Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel—there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.

“Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband.

“One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she[’d] heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah.

“After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!’ She kissed them and they cried openly.

“They said, ‘No, we’re going on with you to your people.’

“But Naomi was firm: ‘Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.’

“Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye; but Ruth embraced her and held on.

“Naomi said, ‘Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.’

“But Ruth said, ‘Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!’

“When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem.

“When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: ‘Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!’

“But she said, ‘Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.’

“And so Naomi was back, and Ruth the foreigner with her, back from the country of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.”

Now, if you’ve never read Ruth, this is your homework assignment, and that is to… I’m not going to finish it for you, you’ll be glad, perhaps, to know. But it will repay your study and, I hope, will fill in any almost inevitable blanks that are left in the comments that I have to make.

What this does in part is reveal the fact of what has happened to Naomi, or what happens to Naomi, in her triple bereavement. She is bereaved three times over. And what we discover—and I don’t like to finish the story for you if you don’t know it, but in the slow unfolding of the providence of God, it leads to the conversion of Ruth, to Ruth’s marriage to Boaz, to motherhood, to the coming of David, Israel’s king, and to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ—all of that coming out of a circumstance where Naomi would have every reason to ask, “Why has this happened to me?”

The first five verses just actually describe, if you like, a life that is falling apart. The events of life are caving in on her. You know, Bethlehem was “the land of bread.” That’s what its name meant. But there was no bread. There was famine. Her husband, Elimelech, takes the initiative and decides, “Well then, we’d be better going somewhere than starving here.” And so it’s in that context that they leave—Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” not living up to its name.

And what we’re going to discover is that this lady was a lady of faith. And her faith is exemplified even in this trauma. Naomi, her name actually means “lovely,” or “pleasant,” or “delightful.” And so her name is actually challenged by the circumstances that she faces. The experiences—she’s called Miss Lovely, Miss Delightful, Miss Pleasant—and the experiences into which she comes are ugly, painful, and depressing. So the challenge is there every time she looks in the mirror: “I’m Miss Pleasant, but why is life so horribly unpleasant?” She’s left with her two sons after her husband dies, and then she’s left without her two sons and without her husband.

Naomi’s faith, although it’s pushed, tried, tested, and stretched to the limits of emotional endurance, is still faith. It’s not unbelief.

Now, if you’re like me, then you try and conjure these pictures up in your mind. You squeeze your eyes together, and you imagine her standing now at the doorway in her adopted homeland for the time being. She looks out of the door. She looks down the street. There’s no familiar face—certainly not the face of her boys, certainly not her husband’s face. The three men in her life that meant everything to her have been taken away, and she knows why, and she knows how: because God in his providence did this. This was not like 7–1 to the devil, and God had taken a vacation. No, she understood exactly what was going on.

It is important, I think, also to recognize that her faith, although it’s pushed, tried, tested, stretched to the limits—the limits of, if you like, emotional endurance—it’s still faith. It’s not unbelief. This is important. Faith is still faith when we trust God. It’s not unbelief in her part. She recognizes… If you read the story, as I’m sure you’re not going to, you realize that she references the Lord all the time. “The Lord has done this,” she says. “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is not marvelous in my eyes.[5] This is the Lord’s doing, and it is difficult to handle.” It’s straightforward. She doesn’t doubt that Yahweh is still in control, despite the pain of her experience.

Providence in the Particulars

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think this is wonderfully helpful. I think that when I find people who are honest about things like this, it has a ring of reality to it that is both demanding and at the same time assuring. I’m not one for the triumphalistic statements. I’m not one for the “Well, it doesn’t really matter at all, because after all…” Well, fine. Perhaps you live in a realm of spiritual geography that I have never experienced. That’s just not something that has an immediate appeal to me. But I do recognize when someone’s heart cry is staggered by the incident and yet at the same time is an expression of faith.

I thought of this lady when I was working on this talk. Fiona Castle came here years and years ago. She spoke to ladies in the church. Fiona Castle’s husband was a well-known singer and entertainer in Britain. He died of cancer himself. And in the aftermath, she wrote a little book called Rainbows through the Rain, which is actually a compilation of various bits and pieces. And in one of them, one of the pieces, there is a poem by another cancer lady, Shirley Vickers. And her poem is called “Black Hole, or A Prayer for Those Going through Dark Places.” Now, the reason I read this is because I want to suggest that Naomi, while her faith is faith—she’s faithful in her faith—I think she might have been happy to add her “amen” to these sentiments. It goes like this. [Reads poem.]

So, there we have it. Her faith, while still faith, fascinatingly, somehow or another didn’t quite cover the little bits and pieces of God’s provision for her. What I mean by that is that her faith was blind, actually, to the fact that God was providentially at work in her life.

In other words, she had faith enough to believe that God is sovereign, that he overrules all things, that he understands what he’s doing with his people, that he will bring them back to the place of his purposes. That’s all well and good. But what about for Naomi? What about for her? She was very aware of the fact that God was able to provide. But what about a special provision for her?

At some point, as we read, on the road, far enough away to not be tempted to go back to Moab and close enough to be able to say to her daughters-in-law, “I think you should go back”—that’s at some point along the journey where this conversation takes place. And she urges them in a way that is wonderfully selfless, isn’t it? The pain is a real pain, and yet she is not preoccupied with that. She recognizes that these girls have a future that is beyond her—the strange statements she makes about having babies and waiting and so on. Of course there was no way that was going to happen. And so she says, “You go back. Go home. Go to where you are in a place of familiarity. Don’t worry about me anymore. Because after all, the best of my life is now over.” She has in mind their well-being, their security, which, ironically, is exactly the perspective of God in relationship to her. It is a very Godlike response on her part: “I’m concerned about you, and I’m concerned about your well-being, and I’m concerned about your future.” If she could only hear herself speaking, she would hear the voice of God saying to her, “And Naomi, that’s exactly why I’m concerned about you. You’re worried about them. That’s fine.”

I think we need to think this out—the way in which when we face these things, as inevitably we will do, we can actually miss what God is doing. The daughter-in-law that she urges to leave, who doesn’t leave, is going to prove to be the very embodiment of God’s fellowship and faithfulness. She thinks it’s a great idea to send them back. Mercifully, only one of them goes. Well, was that because God made Ruth do that—that she was a pawn on a gigantic chessboard, that she did not have the right to make a decision? No! She made her own decision. They both made their own decision, freely: “I’m going back.” “I’m staying.” And in the providence of God, one of the two that Naomi thought should also be gone was the means that God had provided for her. And there was no advantage to Ruth in doing what she did. It’s not as if somehow or another it would enhance her circumstances. Not at all. There was no social or financial or even religious reason as to why she should do what she did.

So, what happens, of course, is that her faith then is able to find hope in the signs of God’s providence. And that’s what the balance of the story really includes. The first chapter, which we just read, ends with the sun shining on the fields of the barley harvest: “So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite[ss], her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.”[6] It makes me think of Sting: “Duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh-duh, among the fields of barley,” and then “uh-duh duh-duh-duh, in the fields of barley, fields of grain.”[7] Little details like this are fantastic, aren’t they? Yeah, aren’t they? This is not an invention.

The way in which the Bible is written, incidentally, is according to the author and according to the genre and according to the context. So if when we read Ruth it sounded like we were reading Ephesians, we’d know something is seriously up here. Because when God wanted Ephesians wrote, he had a guy called Paul who would be capable of writing Ephesians. When he wanted this one written, he was glad to have Naomi.

But you will notice: she comes back into town; they arrive in Bethlehem; the whole town is stirred. You can imagine it:

“Oh, goodness, did you see her? I think I saw her at the market.”

“Who?”

“I think I saw Naomi there.”

“Oh, no, no. Naomi left a long time ago.”

“No, I think she’s back. You’d better check and see. And she’s got a girl with her. I think she’s foreign. I think she’s… I don’t think she’s… You know, I think she’s a different—she’s a different girl.”

“Really?”

The whole town is stirred because of them. And the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi? Can this be Miss Pleasant? Can this be Miss Delightful?” Well, she says, “Well, I don’t want you to call me Naomi. Call me Mara.” “Call me Mara.” “Call me Miss Bitter.” Now, notice: “because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” She doesn’t transmute the bitterness into a good because of its source. God, a sovereign God, looking down upon his children, acting according to his benevolent will, has done what he’s done. And she says, “We might as well face the facts”: “I went away full, but the Lord … brought me back empty.”[8]

I like this as well. ’Cause she’s not kidding herself, and she’s not trying to kid anybody else. There’s no hiding of her feelings. There’s no pretending. There’s no saying to herself, “You know, when I get back into town, I should put on a really good show. Because after all, the people from the church, they’re going to expect me to be, you know…” No, no, no, no, no. And she says, “No, here’s the deal: I don’t think you should call me this. I think it’d be better to call me Mara.” There’s no stiff upper lip from her—all the things that, if you’re not careful, you might find creating a huge guilt trip for you when you lie in your bed at night and cry because you’re sad, or because you feel empty, and because you know that this is as it is. That’s the benefit, you see, of the clarity and the sweetness of the Word of God. Faith may not always see in the simple things the evidences of God’s providence.

I studied at home this morning, purposefully, and because there was nobody there, and it was nice and quiet. And I opened the window to get fresh air, but also to hear the birds sing. I thought that would be quite nice. And of course, it was very nice. “Consider the birds of the air. They don’t store stuff away in a retirement account. God looks after them. If you see the grass, it’s been clothed once again. And God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the oven.”[9] Let’s not miss the evidences of God’s goodness to us: food on the table, companionship. She could say, “Well, it’s not my husband, but she’s such a nice girl, and I’m glad that she’s with me.”

And then the rest of the story is, of course, just that fantastic story. And I don’t want to spoil it for you if you’ve never read it, because I hate it when people tell me the end of a thing. I’ve never understood people reading the end of a novel before they do the beginning. They’re certainly not Scottish, because that’s a dreadful waste of money. You might as well just go in the bookstore and read it by yourself and then put it back up, now that you know how it finished.

Well,

Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she[’d] been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.

“[Oh,] the Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has[n’t] stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”[10]

Boaz was like God to her. And when you read on in the story, this Boaz thing gets really quite, quite compelling.

Despite the fact that we try and muscle our way through life on our own, Jesus loves us, and he pursues us, even when we don’t expect it.

And I think the last thing I want to say is this—’cause I’ve gone on too long. But Naomi’s faith could never actually guess what God would accomplish through these trials. Because I think when we think in terms of the providence of God, most of the time we—well, I seldom get it looking forward; I sometimes get it looking through the rearview mirror. You know, because looking forward, it seems only daunting, or whatever it might be, and we can’t necessarily put the pieces of the puzzle together. And Naomi could never have guessed what this was going to result in.

Chapter 4—and again, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but: “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” That’s exciting.

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life … sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

[And] then Naomi took the child, [and] laid him in her lap and cared for him. [And] the women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed.[11]

God’s plan was much bigger than anything that she could ever have conceived. And we ought to acknowledge, too, that it’s the very ordinariness of this story that is so appealing, isn’t it? That in the ordinariness of the lives of ordinary people, God is working his purpose out. Jesus’ life—Jesus’ life, in terms of physical descent—was linked to the story of a Moabite girl gleaning in barley fields miles from her home, looking after her mother-in-law, in whose sadness and in whose bereavement God had been at work. So that when we get to the beginning of the gospels—and hopefully the next time that we broach this, we say to ourselves, “Whoa, I get that”:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, [and] Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,

and all the way down. And “Salmon [was] the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,” for crying out loud! Jesus came to save the kind of people who were in his family tree. “Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,” and “Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David,” and “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,”

and all the way down. “And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called [the] Christ.”[12]

“Why is this happening to me?” Naomi said. It’s not really about you, Naomi. It’s about something that extends way back in time and all the way on into eternity. “Through all those changing scenes of life, in sorrow and in joy, the praises of my heart shall still declare your glory.”[13]

The Man at the End of the Story

And two closing comments—just an observation—would be this, before Jim comes and cleans everything up. I don’t think there can be any doubt that we will be far more effective in speaking to our friends and neighbors when we’re prepared to be honest about our pain, honest about our disappointments, honest about our sufferings and the fact that that tested faith is still faith. You know, I think it’s John Murray who says if we have faith as slender as one strand of a spider’s web, there is the evidence of redeeming love. And I don’t know all of you who are here tonight, and I don’t know what you make of all that I just said, but I do want to commend to you first the reading of Ruth, and then the understanding that the end of the line for Ruth’s story, and for all of our stories, comes in an encounter with the Lord Jesus, who, despite the fact that we try and muscle our way through life on our own, he loves us, and he pursues us, even when we don’t expect it.

I had a wonderful illustration of this that just comes to mind, and with this I will close. A fellow sent me a text during the week last week when I was traveling. And he said, “I’d like to talk to you sometime. It’s not about cars.” The reason he said it wasn’t about cars was because he’s a car salesman, and I’d only ever had a conversation with him in passing about “Well, what about that, or what about that?” We had no relationship at all. We had a mutual friend.

So I called him back. He said, “Call me,” so I called him.

And he said, “Hello.”

I said, “Hello.” I said, “What’s up?”

He said, “Well, let me begin by saying, you know, I’m not a religious man, Alistair.”

I said, “Okay.”

He said, “Yeah, because I’m not at all religious.”

I said, “Okay, fine.” You know, you called me up to tell me you’re not religious. That’s all right. That’s fine. Okay. I said, “So, what’s going on?”

He said, “Well, I’m at an event at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC. It’s a big car event. I was sitting at the bar with my wife having a conversation, slash an evolving argument. My wife left, and I was sitting by myself. For whatever reason,” he said—“and you know I’m not a religious man” (he kept saying this: “You know I’m not a religious man”)—“I started to Google. I took my phone, and I Googled “God,” and I Googled “faith,” and I found myself sitting with the Ten Commandments in front of me.” Okay? And he says, “As I’m sitting looking at this, somebody comes and sits down right beside me—a big, tall guy,” he said.

And the gentleman said to him, “Hello.”

“Hello.”

“Where are you from?”

The guy says, “From Cleveland.”

The gentleman says, “I have a friend in Cleveland.” And he says, “But I don’t think you’ll know who he is. He’s a pastor. His name is Alistair Begg.”

“Oh,” said this guy. “Yeah, I know him. I do know him. I don’t know him well, but I know him.” Well, guess who God had sit down next to this guy? Os Guinness, for goodness’ sake! One of the great social evangelists of our generation. And he sits him down… Of course he didn’t, you know, move in, say, “Os, you got to go sit next to a guy.” No, Os decided he was going to go and sit down there, and he sat down there by his own volition. And he picked up the story with this guy. And so the guy phones me up to tell me, “You won’t believe what happened to me. Because I’m not a religious man!”

And I said to him, I said, “Hey, Bob, you may not be looking for God, but God is looking for you. And there is no coincidence that he sat down beside you—somebody that would be able to explain to you the nature of who God is and what he’s done in Jesus.”

Well, that’s enough. It’s probably more than enough.

I think a brief word of prayer:

Father, out of a multitude of words, bring home to our hearts perhaps something that is a blessing or an encouragement or a correction—whatever it might be. We want, when we look to the Bible, to meet Jesus, the one who finally emerges out of this amazing story, the one who has suffered on our behalf and the one who’s “touched with the feeling[s] of our infirmities,”[14] the one to whom we can go and ask him to help us, to save us, to keep us. And to this we commit ourselves as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] Romans 8:28 (NIV).

[2] See Ephesians 1:11.

[3] Genesis 22:7–8 (paraphrased).

[4] Genesis 45:5 (ESV).

[5] See Psalm 118:23.

[6] Ruth 1:22 (NIV).

[7] Sting, “Fields of Gold” (1993). Paraphrased.

[8] Ruth 1:20–21 (NIV).

[9] Matthew 6:26, 28–30; Luke 12:24, 27–28 (paraphrased).

[10] Ruth 2:19–20 (NIV).

[11] Ruth 4:13–17 (NIV 1984).

[12] Matthew 1:1–3, 5–6, 16 (NIV 1984).

[13] Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, “Through All the Changing Scenes of Life” (1698). Lyrics lightly altered.

[14] Hebrews 4:15 (KJV).

Copyright © 2024, 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.