Thursday, July 17, 2008

God, what are you up to?

I really enjoyed Bible class last night. With the summer quarter off, I decided to take in Steve Powers's College Bible class. Steve was leading the class through a discussion in Acts 16 of Paul's vision of a man from Macedonia summoning help.

What is interesting in the text is the emphasis given to Paul as the recipient of the vision. Not a hint is given that Silas, Timothy, or Luke might have been given the same vision. Just a simple, straightforward declaration that Paul received a vision and the caravan of missionaries loaded up and headed west.

For Philippi.

Interestingly, on the first Sabbath in Philippi, Luke makes no mention of Paul following custom by making his way to the Synagogue. Apparently, there was no synagogue in Philippi. So, the missionaries head for a river bank where they expect to find people praying.

And who do they find?

A group of women praying, headlined by one of the Philippian society's upper crust, Lydia.

Now pause for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of Silas. Silas is a man. Silas is a Jew. Silas is a missionary. He's followed Paul's lead, leaving the comfortable surroundings of Asia Minor for uncharted waters in Europe. Assuming he didn't receive a vision -- and there's no reason to assume he did since the text is silent -- he's following the vision of his buddy and co-worker onto foreign soil. Perhaps Silas expected they'd be met by a throng of interested pagans. Perhaps Silas assumed the harvest would be plentiful as they set foot on European soil.

But a group of women? That's it? That's all!

Remember, the culture of their day made little place for women. And so, it's not outside the realm of possibility that on that Sabbath morn at the riverbank, Silas might have scratched his head and wondered, "God, what are you doing?"

Ever been there? Out of your element. In an unfamiliar setting with nothing to fall back on but your faith.

Interestingly, when you keep reading, you discover that what would become one of the strongest, most influential churches of the first century was planted right there in Philippi. The first conversions at Philippi were Lydia, a white-collar aristocrat and an unnamed jailer, no doubt a blue-collar, ruffian.

Maybe Silas wondered what God was up to. But knowing how the story ends, we know God was up to what God is always up to, i.e. carving, shaping, and forming out of the clay of humanity lives that would reflect the love of his Son for the lost and the least.

God knew what He was up to.

He always does.