I Kings 19:1-15a
Elijah having bettered the Baal prophets in a contest of who can evoke a sign from God and bring rain, now has them killed. King Ahab tells his queen, Jezebel, that Elijah had killed the Baal prophets, who were her allies. The queen casts aside all pretenses and announces that she will kill Elijah. He flees. After the first day of flight, he is so discouraged he longs to die, but God will not permit that. After being miraculously fed, he undertakes the long journey to mount Horeb (also called Sinai) to seek some sort of audience with God. He gets it, only to have God tell him to go back. The aftermath is not included in our reading, but Elijah will return to foment a rebellion, place a new king on the throne and name a successor to himself as prophet—-the young, warlike Elisha.
We have heard in our readings Paul’s defense of his authority and of his mission, how he has insisted that the Church is not just a movement within Judaism, as the Jerusalem Christians have held. Here he speaks to the critical issue: how necessary is the Jewish law. “Law” is a word of multiple meanings. I think Paul wants us to think of the Torah (a Hebrew word for “law”), the first five books of the Old Testament that we Christians call the Pentateuch. Most Jews of Paul’s time believed that the Torah contained everything one needed to know to be with God. But Paul also wants us to think of “law” not in the broad sense meaning the Torah, but in the narrow sense, as the codes of laws contained within the Torah.