Lydia

They called it Turkey Red along
The Lycus River bed. And strong
Men pushed their poles against the mud
To guide their boats and gather blood
Red cloth from Thyatira for
The fortune ships along the shore
At Smyrna to the South. The dye
Was rare, and Roman brass would buy
A thousand pounds with polished gold.
And even simple men, who rolled
The stones to crush the madder root
For tint, could fill a purple boot
With profits in a week or two.
And clever sellers in a few
Short years could be as rich as kings.

And such was Lydia. The rings
She wore were forged in Carthage near
The coast of Africa. The sheer
Silk veil was brought from India,
And made a gift to Lydia
Three weeks before her husband died.
She was a wealthy widow now. Beside
The wealth there was a little child,
Alert and just a little wild,
A daughter two years old. Her name
Was Syntyche which meant the same
As fortune, good success, or chance.
The widow never sought romance
Again. She married purple gold.
She sailed to distant ports and sold
Her cloth to Caesarean lords,
And gathered jewels and Spanish swords
And crystal balls and magic beans
And charms and astral figurines,
And brought them home for Syntyche.

Ten years went by. The tapestry
Of Lydia was known throughout
The world. But no one knew about
The silent life of Syntyche.
She missed her mother terribly,
And sought her missing love in spells,
In psychic charms and wishing wells,
In magic moods and special tea,
With evil men and sorcery.

When she was twelve she disappeared.
At first her mother mainly feared
A ransom note. And then she wept,
She wept the tears that she had kept
Inside for years and years, and lay
Face down alone day after day,
On Syntyche's small bed. She met
No one for business deals, and let
The boats depart, and ate no food,
Until at last she understood
What she must do. She rose and took
Her shawl and found the Kodesh Brook.
She walked across the narrow log,
And then straight to the synagogue.
She found an officer and said,
"Perhaps my daughter is alive or dead,
But sir, could someone here teach me
Of God? I've cried to Him and He
Has led me here." And then she told
Him of her work and how she sold
Herself to gold and how she lost
Her fortune, Syntyche." "High cost
For cloth," the teacher said. "I know.
But is there hope for one as low
as I?" "You do need teaching ma'am.
The gracious God of Abraham
Gives hope to only such as you.
Now listen, here's what you must do.
Submit now to the law of God,
And it may be that Moses' rod
Will rise again and point the way
To Syntyche, if you today
Will burn the charms and figurines
And crystal balls and magic beans.
Shall man inquire with pea and pod,
And not consult the holy God?"

So Lydia began to fear
The Lord. Then one long empty year
Went by. She worshipped week by week,
But every time she tried to seek
The face of God it was as though
A voice would gently say, "I know
You Lydia, but you do not know me."
Then once she asked, "Lord, what
More may I see, and, Lord, where fly
To Thee?" And God said, "Philippi."
Her mouth fell open at the word.
"Could I," she thought, "have really heard
The voice of God?" And then the doubts
Were gone. And so was she.
The routes to Philippi were common fare
For Lydia. Her business there
Was good. She owned an ample home
And often on the way to Rome
Would stay the night.

This time one thought
Alone was in her mind, "God brought
Me here to Philippi to see his face
And that is all I need." The place
Was well kept by a Jewish maid
Who secretly for years had prayed
That Lydia would know the King
Of heav'n. Euodia would sing
At night. And Lydia had ears.
The songs of faith for many years
Had done more than she knew.

Once more
She came, and, entering the door,
Knelt down before her maid and pled,
"Euodia, one time you said
That every Sabbath day you go
Somewhere to pray. I want to know
Your God. Tomorrow may I go
With you? It may be God will show
Us both our deep desire."

At dawn
The river lay like glass, and on
The surface was a blazing fire
As though God made a liquid pyre
To burn the incense of the prayer
That holy women offered there.
And as they prayed a band of men
Approached and knelt in silence. Then
The one named Paul began to plead
That God would satisfy the need
Of her whose back had felt the rod
Of his rebuke and wanted God
More than a hundred laden ships
Of purple dye. At this the lips
Of Lydia fell open wide.

"He knows my heart," she thought, "my pride,
My shame. This is a prophet sent
From God. O, let him now present
The power of your holy Word,
And show the glory of the Lord."
She opened up her eyes, and all
The men were fixed on her. Then Paul
Opened his mouth and said, "The Son
Of God, the long expected One,
Has come. His name is Jesus Christ.
He lived in love and sacrificed
Himself for sin and rose again
To live and reign. Five hundred men
Can testify that he's alive.
And now with all his might we strive
To tell the world that everyone
Who turns from sin and trusts the Son
Will be forgiven every wrong,
And sing an everlasting song.
If God did not withhold the King,
Will he not give us everything?"

When Paul had done his human part,
The Lord himself opened her heart,
And Lydia believed. They stayed
The day with her and taught and prayed
'Til well into the night, then slept
For free in stately rooms once kept
For monied merchants and their gold.
Next morning Lydia was bold
To ask the men if she could go
Along to pray. "I think I'd grow
If I could watch God's power in you."
So Paul agreed. "I think that's true,"
He said, "I sense that we should take
The market path and slowly make
Our way down to the place of prayer."
But half way through the market square
A slave girl used for sorcery
And owned by wicked men broke free.
And with a rasping voice she screamed:
"These are the holy men I dreamed
About. They save your soul. They curse
Your gold and take away your purse.
These are the servants of the Most
High God. Beware! Beware! You host
Of hell." They tried to seize their prize
And pull her back, too late. Their eyes
Had met. The demon child was frozen in
The gaze of Lydia. Her chin
Was locked in speechlessness, a gash
Was healed along her wrist, a sash
Of purple cloth held rags around
Her waist. Her arms and neck were bound
With bands of charms and magic beans.
And little astral figurines
Were pierced through both her ears.
And Lydia, through burning tears,
Could see that she was very thin;
Her eyes were sunken deep within
Her face as dark and fierce as they
Could be. Her cheeks were hollow clay,
And there were bruises everywhere,
And tiny razors in her hair.
"O, Syntyche, what have I done?
What can I do? Where can I run
To bring you back? O, God above . . ."
At that the demon tried to shove
Her mother down, but Paul cried, "NO!
In Jesus' Name be still. Now go!
Come out of her you fiendish power.
And mark, that from this very hour
You shall not torment Syntyche
Again." The power of sorcery
Was gone. The girl fell at the feet
Of Lydia. Her face was sweet,
Her eyes were soft, her voice like dew:
"Mommy, can I come home with you?"

The light of candle four is plain,
It has its part of peace and pain:
A selfish soul can soon destroy
A little girl or little boy.
But Christ can open selfish hearts
And nullify demonic arts.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org