CANCELLED Columbus Avenue Baptist Church Waco, TX
The story of the prophet Elijah is told in the Old Testament Books of Kings. When the oratorio begins, King Ahab of Israel (whose historical reign took place in the 9th century B.C.E.) has instituted the worship of the god Baal in place of the God of Abraham, and has established temples in Baal’s name. Elijah prophesies that as punishment, God will curse the land with a severe drought. Starved and suffering, the people pray for mercy, and are encouraged to repent by the faithful believer Obadiah. An angel appears to Elijah and sends him to the home of the widow of Zarephath, whose dying son Elijah miraculously restores to health. Elijah then confronts King Ahab, who accuses Elijah of causing the drought he prophesied; Elijah responds that it is actually the king’s worship of Baal that is to blame, and challenges the priests of Baal to demonstrate their god’s supposed power by praying for him to light the fire under a sacrifice. Despite their frantic prayers, the followers of Baal receive no fire; Elijah, in turn, prays to God, offering the sacrifice, and in response, fire descends from heaven. The people proclaim the miracle they have seen, and Elijah instructs them to rise up and kill the false god’s prophets.
Obadiah implores Elijah to pray for rain, and when he does, the long drought finally comes to an end. In the second part of the oratorio, Elijah once again confronts Ahab, but Queen Jezebel, furious about the destruction of the priesthood of Baal, commands that the people kill the prophet. Warned by Obadiah that his life is in danger, Elijah flees to the desert, where he descends into despair and doubt. He is comforted by angels who instruct him to go to Mount Horeb, where the divine presence of God is revealed to him. Rejuvenated by his encounter and with his faith restored, Elijah returns to Israel to continue his holy work. When his time comes to depart the earth, a fiery chariot carries him away to heaven in a whirlwind.