Paul has a vision of the man of Macedonia, and he immediately follows that vision. He never finds the man who came to him in a dream. Instead, he finds a woman named Lydia, “a worshiper of God,” which likely means that she is not Jewish but a God-fearer. She gathers with a group of women by the river for prayer since the Jewish population in Philippi is likely not big enough to support a synagogue.
We may suppose that Paul will be looking for a man, as he dreamed. So isn’t it unusual for him and those with him (presumably male) to be talking to a group of women? The vision that Paul had while asleep gives way to a new vision when he awakes. He has dreamed of a man but finds a woman. Paul’s words open Lydia’s heart, and in turn she offers the traveling evangelists what they need. She opens her home to Paul and those with him. As a dealer in purple cloth—the fabric of royalty, rulers, and the rich—Lydia is a woman of means whose hospitality may have fanned a spark of faith into a flame that spread to Europe.
Paul opens himself to the vision that God gives him in a dream, and he remains open to God’s unfolding vision. He does not get hung up on the literal image of the man from his dream but rather lets God speak to him through a woman who is new to the faith.
Just like Paul, God’s vision for us might find fulfillment in a different way than we imagine. God may be trying to speak to us through others, especially those who seem to be unlikely messengers.
God of surprises, help us open ourselves to the way that you speak to us through unlikely people. Help us recognize your transforming vision. Amen.