Even in the midst of the cosmic scale of the Bible, we hear about the faithfulness of people like Lydia.
In the beginning, God created the entirety of everything by his Word and by his Breath. He formed and filled the cosmos as a glorious tabernacle, one in which he would dwell, surrounded by his images. These images were invited into a vocation of royal priests, ruling and guarding the global tabernacle, bringing the delights of the garden in Eden to the entire planet.
But dark forces swirled around this garden. A serpentine angelic being, a tester, prompted the woman-image-bearer to sin, who in turn caused Adam, the male-image-bearer, to sin. Rather than ruling as royal priests, the two image bearers would turn their power to the dark forces that conspire against Yahweh, robbing them of their humanity. The image bearers would soon regress into violence, killing one another; they turned their women over to lust-filled angelic beings; they built towers as direct challenges to the face of God.
In response, God scattered the image bearers across the globe. He then appointed angelic guardians over 70 nations (Deuteronomy 32:8), but called one man, Abram, to be the father of a nation that God would call his own. This nation, whom God would call his son, would display the manifold wisdom of God to the nations, extending the rule of Yahweh across the globe. Yahweh was going to save the world through the vocation of Israel.
Unfortunately, this was not to be. The nations would be at war, and the angelic guardians would abdicate their duties to care for the poor and the weak (Psalm 82). God’s son himself would become disobedient, calling for himself kings that would turn their royal rule over to idols, the gods of the other nations. Yahweh’s plan to rescue the nations seemed to be imperiled.
But Yahweh rules over the world, and was going to make every enemy of his a footstool. So, Jesus, the very Word of God by whom and through whom God created the earth, came to earth in the flesh, taking the form of a servant. In the form of a servant, he revealed the fullness of the glory and being of God, dying a violent death on a cross. All of the evil of the world had turned its attention to the incarnate Word, hoping to extinguish the light by the power of Torah. But God, by the very Breath by which he created the world, resurrected the incarnated Son of God, raising him to indestructible life. In his resurrection, evil’s power over death was taken, the principalities and powers that ruled over the earth by human’s deigned power were put to open shame, and the power of Sin was removed when humans were transferred from the domain of darkness to the reign of the Son of God, the King of Israel and the world.
The restored image bearers join in the conquest of the King, Jesus, spreading the good news of his ascension to the planet. The message, noting that the ascended King was judge and King of the nations, who offered forgiveness and his very own Spirit, would conquer the planet over the course of millennia. The forces of evil, disarmed but not defeated, would wage war against the saints through the power of land and sea beasts, ruled by a draconic force of destruction (Revelation 13). The saints, by their faithfulness to the message of the King, would prevail over these forces. In the end, the forces of evil would be crushed by the ascended King and his servants.
In the midst of this cosmic story, the Bible zooms in on specific stories of faithfulness. In Acts, in the middle of Paul’s missionary journeys to the nations, Luke stops and tells us the story of Lydia, a seller of purple goods. We don’t know much about her, other than a few acts of her faithfulness. She took in the apostles and let them stay with her as they spread the Gospel. But these simple acts of faithfulness are recorded forever, in the same book that we read the story above from.
Any time you start to worry about your place in the great story of the Bible, think about Lydia. The Lord sees our acts of simple faithfulness because the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, joining us to him by faith. Many stories of the Bible focus simply on someone being obedient to the Lord, not knowing what their obedience would eventually turn out to be a part of. Boaz, joyfully living according to Torah, would bear the line of David, and the Messiah; the exiles of Babylon and Assyria would silently convert the world; Lydia would help Paul create an outpost of the Kingdom in the nations.
So be faithful today, and walk in step with the Spirit. Who’s to say which ways the Spirit will use your faithfulness to shape the cosmic story of the world?