Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.” And in so doing, Elijah holds our grace to his enemy, inviting him to know the gift that is from God.
But in the preceding verse, Elijah has single-handedly killed four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, holders of public office, who had eaten and drank at the table of queen Jezebel. That is hard to swallow.
It is understandable. These were a lobby group who had campaigned, successfully, for the systemic hunting down and wiping out of any prophets of Yahweh. Obadiah, the official in charge of the palace, had risked his own life by defying the king and queen, hiding one hundred prophets of Yahweh, fifty to a cave, and providing them with food and water, in the middle of an extended drought. The prophets of Baal had taken the people of Israel down a disastrous path. Elijah’s actions are understandable, and there are those who would advocate for such action today. But it is hard to swallow.
Sometimes the fare served up for us in the Bible, as nourishment, is alien and unpalatable. Like fugu, certain parts can be deadly if served up without training. Bloodshed begets bloodshed.
Psalm 23 proclaims, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley [or, the valley of the shadow of death], I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.’ (Psalm 23:4, 5). Every time we sit at table, eating and drinking, with friend and foe alike, our actions point to a greater table, beyond the scar of death—the bloodshed of this world—where the most vehement of enemies might be reconciled.