Lydia in the Bible was a wealthy business woman who met Paul in Philippi when she and a group of women gathered together on the shore to pray.
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Have you ever been at just the right place at the right time? Maybe you weren’t even supposed to be there, but looking back, you can see how God orchestrated it all in ways you could have never imagined. In today’s episode of All God’s Women, we look at Lydia, a traveling business woman who was right where she needed to be to be saved.
Who Was Lydia in the Bible?
We meet Lydia in Acts 16:14. Paul met her in Philippi on his second missionary journey. But in order to fully appreciate the hand of God and His work in her life, we need to go back to the beginning of the chapter.
Paul met Timothy in Lystra and invited him to join him on his evangelistic journey. So they went from city to city helping to strengthen the Gentile churches. But while they were in the region of Galatia, the Holy Spirit came to Paul forbidding him to preach in Asia.
Unsure where to proceed, they tried to go to Bithynia, but again, the Holy Spirit stopped them. Then, in the night, Paul had a vision. A man from Macedonia pleaded for him to come to Macedonia and help them. Immediately, they headed that way, concluding that the Lord had called them to preach there.
Macedonia was a region of Europe. In order to reach Macedonia, they had to cross the narrow body of water that separated Europe and Asia. They made their way to Philippi, the largest city in that part of Macedonia and stayed for several days.
It was their custom on the Sabbath day to find a local synagogue. However, since this was a Roman colony without many Jews living there, the city had no synagogue. In fact, the Jewish custom at the time was that they would only build a synagogue if there were ten Jewish men living there. So this tells us how few godly men there were in Philippi. However, there was a group of women who met at the river to pray. Paul and his traveling companions found out about these women and joined their prayer service. They began to speak to the women gathered there.
The Story of Lydia in the Bible
Lydia was one of those praying women. Acts 16:14 tells us “she was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
She then lead her entire household to be saved and baptized. After that, she invited Paul and his traveling companions to stay at her house, which they did.
Acts 16 goes on to tell about the Fortune-telling slave girl who we’ll cover next week. As a result of his interaction with her, Paul ends up in jail, and we’ll talk about that next week, but once he was released, where do you think he went?
Acts 16:40 says, “So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” Some versions say they “encouraged” the brethren.
From this verse we realize that Lydia’s house had become the headquarters for the Philippi Christians. It was in essence a home church.
The Rest of the Story
On the surface it’s a sweet story of a woman getting saved and opening up her house to God’s servants. But there’s so much more to this.
Who was Lydia? We know that she was a seller of purple from Thyatira, but what does that mean?
Lydia was a business woman, a very successful business woman. The area she was from was known for its purple dyes. These were used in the garments of royalty and the very rich. Lydia ran a high end luxury business.
Since there’s no mention of a man in Lydia’s life, we can assume she was single. Was she a widow who inherited the business? Did she grow up in the industry? How did she get where she was? We don’t know. But at the time Paul met her, she was a wealthy and influential woman, making a living in a man’s world.
Though Lydia had a home in Philippi, she was from Thyatira. Most likely her work required much traveling, and she had homes in multiple cities. This home in Philippi was large enough to require servants and to accommodate extra guests.
Here’s what’s really interesting. Thyatira was in Asia, in the area where the Holy Spirit forbid Paul to preach. Instead, God led Paul to Europe, to Philippi, where he would meet an Asian woman who would lay the foundation for the European church.
God went to a lot of trouble to connect Paul and Lydia. He knew that Lydia was a Gentile seeking for truth and that once she was saved, she would be instrumental in leading others to the Lord. She had the means and resources needed to help launch the Philippi church.
When Paul later wrote his letter to the Philippians, we can be assured he was thinking of Lydia. Chapter 1 verses 3-6 says, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Lessons From Lydia in the Bible
The world likes to talk about fate or coincidence, but as Christians, we know there is no such thing. God is the orchestrator of life. While life may seem awfully random to us, He sees the big picture. He knows where we need to be and who we need to meet in order to become who we’re meant to be.
Lydia went to the river that day because she was seeking. She had limited knowledge of God, but she knew there was more, and she wanted to find it. Paul showed up at that river because God told him to come to Macedonia.
You, too, may be seeking. You’re familiar with God. You’ve heard others talk about Him. You’ve tried learning about Him, but you keep feeling there’s more, that you’re missing something. If so, don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep reading your Bible. Keep seeking until you find Him.
I promise you, He hears you. He will respond. He loves you. He will give you the peace and eternal life that you’re seeking.
Lord God, thank You for the mighty ways that You work in our lives. Thank You for hearing our prayers and sending the answers that we’re seeking. Forgive us those times we grow discouraged and lose heart.
Give us the strength to continue serving You when the way grows more difficult. Grant us confidence and boldness to stand strong when all around us the world is heading further and further away from you. Use us in a mighty way. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Lydia Bible Study
Backstory: Acts 16:1-10
Her Story: Acts 16:11-40
The Rest of the Story: Philippians 1:1-10
Bible Study Review
- Where was Lydia from?
- Where did God send Paul?
- Where did Lydia and Paul meet?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why was Lydia in Philippi?
- Why did God send Paul to Macedonia instead of having him continue preaching in Asia?
- What impact did Lydia have on Christianity in Europe?
- Are you where you need to be?
- Are you willing to open your house to others?
- How is God using you where you’re at?
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