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Lydia and the King

By Royce Frederick

Lydia never met Nebuchadnezzar. He died 500 years before she was born. They were very different, yet there is a great similarity in one event in the life of each.

First, consider Lydia: “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard 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. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (Acts 16:13-15).

Did the Lord perform a miracle on Lydia’s heart and overpower her will? Did He do something for her heart which He is not willing to do for all sinners?

The Lord does not force anyone to be saved. “...God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). He “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). “The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus died for all people (Jn. 1:29; 1 Tim. 2:6), and offers salvation to all people (Jn. 3:16; Mk. 16:15-16). If salvation depended only on God’s will, every person would be saved. But each person must decide to obey or reject the gospel out of his or her own free will. Our eternal destiny will be determined by our own choices and actions (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12), not by a choice which God made for us without our will.

Now, consider king Nebuchadnezzar. His heart was closed regarding one matter. He was not willing to believe his wise men’s interpretation of his dream — unless they could first tell him the dream itself: “...you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation” (Dan. 2:9). They could not.

But by the power of God, Daniel told the king’s dream! Words from God through Daniel telling the dream opened the king’s heart to believe other words from God through Daniel telling its meaning (2:31-48)!

That is similar to Acts 16. The men spoke to the women” (v. 13), then, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul(v. 14). Words from God through the men apparently opened her heart to believe other words from God through Paul!

In Acts 2, words from God through Peter (verses14-36) pricked many hearts (v. 37), causing them to heed other words from God through Peter (verses 38-41). The gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). God’s word pierces hearts like a sword (Heb. 4:12).

How was Lydia’s heart closed? Perhaps she was like many Jews who were not ready to accept the idea (1) that the Christ would suffer and die (Matt. 16:22), (2) that the Christ would not lead them to military victory over the Romans (Acts 1:6), and (3) that Gentiles would enter God’s kingdom and be equal to Jews (Acts 22:21-22). Often, Paul first spoke from prophecies which the Jews believed, explaining their fulfillment in Christ. This opened honest hearts to hear the commands of Christ and obey (Acts 17:1-4).

The Lord opened Lydia’s heart, not Paul (1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Cor.2:1-5; 3:6-7; Rom.10:17).