Lesson: 1 Kings 19:9-18
9 At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; 12 and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
The authors of the Book of Kings also wrote the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Samuel, usually called the “Deuteronomic History,” a didactic history of Ancient Israel from the time in the Wilderness (c. 1250 BCE) to the Babylonian Captivity in 587 BCE.
These books were given their final form around 500 BCE – long after the events they described. The authors used the stories to demonstrate that it was the failures of the Kings of Israel and the Kings of Judea to worship YHWH properly and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)
Today’s reading is set during the reign of the evil King Ahab of Israel (the northern 10 tribes) from 873 to 852 BCE. Ahab’s wife was Jezebel, and she was a Baal worshiper. Just before today’s reading, the prophet Elijah demonstrated that YHWH’s power was greater than the priests of Baal, in that YHWH immolated a bull on a water-soaked pyre on an altar at Mount Carmel. Elijah then killed all the priests of Baal.
When Ahab told Jezebel what Elijah had done, she vowed revenge on Elijah. In fear for his life, Elijah fled to the wilderness (as far to the south as he could go) and then went to a cave in the holy mountain, Horeb (the name used by the Deuteronomists, rather than Sinai).
There, Elijah asked YHWH to let him die (v.4). After YHWH passed by in the wind, an earthquake and fire (all of which were manifested at Mount Carmel), Elijah heard the voice of YHWH in the still silence (v.12). He was directed by YHWH to anoint Hazael as King of Aram (Syria) (v.15), Jehu as king of Israel (an act of treason because Israel had a king), and Elisha as his own successor (v. 16).
Epistle: Romans 10:5-15
5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say?
“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? 15 And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written – to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among other messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.
The “backstory” to this situation was that the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in 49 CE. His successor, Nero (54-68 CE), allowed Jews (including Jewish Jesus Followers) to return to Rome, and this created tensions about leadership and worship within the Jesus Follower Community.
Paul was a Jew all his life, and the Temple in Jerusalem was active all during Paul’s life. (Paul died in 63 and the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.) For Paul, the Jesus Follower Movement was a part of a reformed and expansive Judaism, one that was also available to uncircumcised Gentiles.
In Romans, Paul used terms that need to be unpacked. “Righteousness” (v.5) is understood as being in right relationships with God and others and is sometimes translated as “justified.” A “just” person is also a “righteous” person, and “justified” (v.10) is used the same way that a page of type is “justified” – all the margins are straight and in order.
“Faith” (v.6) is not used as an intellectual assent to one or more propositions. The Greek word for “faith” (pistis) has an active aspect and should be understood as “faithfulness” – active living into one’s beliefs through grace and trust in God. Paul emphasized that “belief” is a matter of the heart (v.10), not the intellect.
As a Jewish Jesus Follower, Paul continued to respect the “law” (the Torah) but emphasized that mere obedience to the Law was not sufficient for salvation or wholeness or righteousness. Righteousness is a matter of the heart and living in active faithfulness just as Jesus the Christ was faithful to the God of Love.
In the last verses (v.12 and 13), Paul continued his call for unity between the Jewish Jesus Followers and the Gentile Jesus Followers (“no distinction between Jew and Greek”).
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”