Filling her basket with an assortment of elegantly dyed purple fabrics, Lydia realized she needed to hurry up in order to promptly arrive at the riverbank. Regularly, on the Sabbath, she met with several other women for a time of prayer at this special spot outside the city gate. Today, however, she viewed her basket and thought that perhaps she shouldn’t be mixing her business pursuit with what she considered her appointment with God. She earnestly was seeking God and who knows what could happen today.
“On the Sabbath we [the apostle Paul and his companions] went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.” (Acts 16:13-15, NIV)
“After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.” (Acts 16:40, NIV)
Scripture tells us Lydia was devout and went routinely to the riverside. In cities where there were less than ten married Jewish men, the minimum number to form a synagogue, people would gather outdoors near a river to worship. Historians believe Lydia was either a righteous Gentile or a “God-fearer” attracted to Judaism. What stands out, though, is
She was a woman of prayer who sought God.
God had prepared her heart for this encounter with the apostle Paul and his companions. This work of God in opening her heart and her positive response to the gospel message marks Lydia as the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe.
Biblical names are significant and we know Lydia was from the city of Thyatira. Well known as a center for the purple dying of fabrics, Thyatira was a city in the province or region of Lydia. Therefore, her name is probably from her place of birth—the Greek region of Lydia. Lydia was most likely a Greek living in the Roman colony of Philippi when she met Paul.
As a seller of purple cloth, which was expensive and highly prized, Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman and merchant. She was a woman of means.
Lydia was also possibly a widow, as she did not need a man’s permission or consent to invite Paul and his traveling companions back to her home. Scripture indicates she owned her home, therefore being in good circumstances. Being a prosperous businesswoman, Lydia had servants, and possibly some family members, as Paul and his companions baptized her and the other members of her household. This act of faith by her servants and family members shows she influenced and controlled the household.
Lydia demonstrates hospitality by hosting Paul and the others in her home. Prevailing upon them to stay with her reveals her determination and fervency. Her home became a place of Christian fellowship, and Paul and Silas knew it was a safe place to go to after their release from prison for proselytizing. Scripture says they met with other believers there before leaving Philippi.
Women of faith, such as Lydia, who went before us can teach us through their lives and examples. Are we setting aside our business pursuits and other interests to meet with God regularly? Are our hearts open to what the Lord has for us? How are we allowing God to use our resources and talents? Our homes? Do you find yourself widowed or single-again? If so, your life is not over and in fact, the best just might be ahead of you. Won’t you join me down by the river?
Father God, Thank you for the example of Lydia in your scriptures. Please prepare and open my heart to you and all you have for me. Allow me to use my talents and resources as a positive influence for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Ephesians 1:18-19a(NIV): “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Revelation 2:18-19 (NIV): “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.”
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