~ Andrea McCaskey
Have you ever had what seemed like a random encounter? Someone you haven’t seen or thought of in ages suddenly comes to mind and shortly thereafter you see them or they call you. And they give you just the encouragement you need, or share news of a mutual friend or invite you to visit. And you sense it, their unspoken need. It was just such a chance encounter that had Lydia, our woman of the week, worshipping at the riverbank when Paul and Silas arrived. Or was it chance?
On the Sabbath, it was customary for worshipers to meet at the riverbank when there wasn’t a synagogue in a town. You needed ten men willing to pray together for a synagogue to be built and Phillipi didn’t have them. So believers worshipped at the riverbank. That’s where we find Paul and Silas during Paul’s second missionary journey. At the riverbank. In Phillipi. Where Lydia was.
Lydia, a seller of purple, had moved her household to Phillipi from Thyatira, a place famous for their dyes. It is believed she was in the process of converting to Judaism. But, in the midst of her conversion, she heard the Gospel and the Lord opened her heart. She became a believer in Jesus Christ that Sabbath day. Lydia and her entire household were baptized in the river! Afterward, Lydia urged Paul and Silas to stay at her home.
Scripture offers no detail about her home, but it was probably large and reflected Lydia’s wealth. She needed a great deal of money to purchase purple cloth for resale because the process of making purple dye was so costly. Tens of thousands of shellfish had to give their inky lives to dye just a yard or two of fabric. She sold to the wealthiest and most powerful Romans. And now she is a believer in Jesus, opening her home to preachers of the Gospel.
I struggled with what God wanted me to learn from Lydia. That usually means obedience will take me out of my comfort zone. Truthfully, what I hear the Spirit saying is that Lydia took a huge risk being a Christian and opening her home to believers in a town that didn’t even have 10 men to gather and build a synagogue. She probably lost some business because of her new beliefs. But, it didn’t stop her. She was bold and confident in her faith.
Lydia’s story reminds me to be bold. This earthly life is not our final destination. This time on earth is spent preparing for our eternal home. Our desire shouldn’t be to accumulate the most stuff before we die, but to share our blessings and make it possible for everyone we meet to have an encounter with the One who will open their hearts. Could be that phone call from out of the blue is God’s way of prompting us to share Him and not random at all.
Hmmm. Maybe everything does happen for a reason. Selah.