The woman of the Bible that we are studying this week is an unusual one for her time . . . her name is Lydia, and she is an executive. A CEO, you might say. She had an entrepreneurial passion as well as a passion for God. We meet her in the book of Acts:
There is a story in between here, but we next see Lydia mentioned late in the same chapter:
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left. (Acts 16:40)So much for us to learn here! Let's dive in!
What does the KJV call it? "A seller of purple." Hmmm. I like how the NIV tells us in a little clearer form: a dealer in purple cloth. OK, I can identify with that. I'm in business development, so I can see that Lydia would need to network with folks, determine business strategies, identify target customers, and then close deals. Yep, she sounds like she would fit in well in today's world!
In her time? Not so much.
But she must have found a way to not only be good at what she did, but to be gracious as she did it. For she was quite successful.
How do we know? Let's look at her business model, OK?
Back then, if you wanted to dye some cloth, you didn't just run down to the market and pick up a bottle or two of Rit dye. (Grin) Dyes were natural, not synthesized, and the dye for purple was made from smushing crustaceans. Yep, only a very special one, and then lots of 'em! To make a yard or two of purple cloth, you needed thousands of those little shellfish. So, it was really, really expensive, and only the wealthy or prominent peeps could afford it. If you wanted to decorate your garment with purple trim? Not so bad. Make an entire garment? Wow! (And there was a special purple that only the Roman emperor could use to make an entire toga!)
So our heroine this week is a business woman of some success, just because she has gotten into this business and managed to stay in it! She hasn't folded under, as they say. She sells luxury goods to the rich and powerful. Lydia was from the main town where the "purple" comes from: Thyatira. She appears to be the head of her household -- no hubby is mentioned, and she has a household of family and servants. In addition to this, she has a house in Philippi. We are getting the picture here . . . she is a successful executive.
Let's look at other parts of her life: Lydia is not Jewish, but she believes in God. She is what the Jews of the time called a "Godfearer." They would worship in the synagogue, but had not converted to Judaism.
Oh, but wait! If you are going to have a synagogue, you need ten men who will meet together there, to say prayers. And Philippi doesn't have a synagogue; therefore we can deduce that there were not ten men available that would help organize one. Well, it was common practice that any Jews who happened to be in a town with no synagogue, knew it was an unwritten rule to meet near the river on the Sabbath and pray. And that is where we first meet Lydia.
In our story, we have this rich, confident woman, meeting Paul for the very first time. He'd never been rich, and at this time, he was probably less than confident about his ministry! When we see Paul and Barnabas traveling through Asia the first trip, they were founding churches and lighting fires in people with the gospel message. They gave glory to God for this wonderful success, but then they came back to the "mother" church in Jerusalem, and the first question they asked these missionaries was "why are you baptizing Gentiles?" Whoomph. That is the sound of the wind going out of Paul and Barnabas' sails. Then Paul had an argument with Barnabas and left on the next trip with Silas. It was on this journey that the Spirit leads Paul to Macedonia. So he goes to Philippi, and talks with Lydia -- and the Lord opened her heart.
So Paul talks to Lydia about his faith, honestly and openly, and the Spirit drew her to Jesus. We have two people here, who listened to the Spirit of God -- and what awesome results! The church in Philippi grew quickly, and was a real instrument for good!
Oh, wait, I'm getting ahead of the story.....
Please join me next time, as we study Lydia!!