And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Summary – During Paul’s missionary journeys, he receives a vision in which he is called to minister in Macedonia. Unlike Jonah when called to preach in a foreign land, Paul and those traveling with him “immediately” headed towards Macedonia. They ended up at Philippi, a city of Macedonia with, apparently, much regional clout (“a leading city of the district”). On the Sabbath they found a place of worship which happened to be by the river and preached there, meeting Lydia and baptizing her. A couple notable things about the episode: they remained in the city “some days” prior to the Sabbath, they “supposed” there was a “place of prayer” by the riverside, and apparently only “women” showed to up pray. What did they do prior to the Sabbath? If they were actively preaching throughout the city, it seems that they would have known for sure if there was a place of prayer by the river and wouldn’t have had to assume. Further, why were only women gathered at this place of prayer? As we compare Paul’s visits to other cities, this visit to Philippi doesn’t need to seem so strange. Paul approached different situations differently: in some cities he went in firing on all cylinders and left being nearly stoned to death. In other cities, such as Philippi, he took a more laid-back and relational approach. Here also, we see that it was not to the centers of academia or the men that Paul took the Gospel, but to groups of women as well, showing his lack of partiality.
Insight – I used to love “magic eye” pictures. When you first look at the picture it just looks like a jumbled mess of colors and shapes. But if you blur your eyes just right, suddenly a three-dimensional shape jumps off the page! When we meet Lydia in story from Acts, she is a “worshiper of god.” But apparently not of the true God and of His Son Jesus, because “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul,” and then she and her household were baptized. I can imagine that her view of God was something like the flat, jumbled, magic eye picture until Paul preached and the Lord opened her heart: at that moment, the whole picture of God’s redemption popped into perspective. As we hear the Word of God preached and read, we will get a clearer and clearer idea about what our Salvation is and what it means, as the Lord opens our hearts. In this Easter season, rejoice that through men like Paul, the Gospel was spread from person to person and city to city until it was passed on to you. Thank God that He has opened up your heart to hear, understand, and believe!
Child Catechism – What did Lydia sell for a living? Purple goods.
Discussion – Why do you think Paul and those with him went to Philippi and not to another city in Macedonia? What is the significance of them preaching to women specifically rather than men or just people in general? Why do you think Luke bothered to discuss what Lydia did for a living?
Prayer – Lord of All, we thank you for your triumph over the grave and the grip of sin through your Son’s Resurrection. Thank you for calling us who were far from you and opening our hearts to hear your words and believe your truth. Be pleased to judge us as faithful servants and accept our praise. Through Christ our Lord, Amen