Saturday, November 01, 2008
A Salt Covenant...
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matthew 5:13
Most people like salt. Men have a bad habit of adding it to their meals before they have even tasted the food. We use salt today mostly to enhance flavor. But long before today’s habits developed, salt was used much differently in the Bible. Salt was a valuable commodity. Nations would fight over access to salt. Salt was used as money. Soldiers would be paid part of their wages in salt and from it we get the word ‘salary.’ Salt was necessary to preserve life. In the hot middle eastern climates, salt was needed to be healthy. It was used to preserve or cure all kinds of foods—fish, meats, grains, cheese. It was used as a weapon against those who rebelled. The enemy would salt a field to prevent it from being used to produce crops, making it useless. (Judges 9:42) Salt was used as an export to barter for other needed items. Salt was commanded to be used in all the sacrifices. It was used to remove the blood from the meat. It was used in the grain offerings. It was part of everyday life in ancient times, but not like we use it today. The Bible gives us more insight into the importance of salt. It was a symbol of unchanging, incorruptible purity. The Bible tells us that there was a covenant that was called a ‘salt covenant.’ We have heard of ‘blood covenants’, but who has ever heard of a ‘salt covenant?’ Yet it is mentioned three times in scripture.
“And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. Lev 2:13
“All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the LORD, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD with you and your descendants with you.” Numbers 18:19
Should you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt? 2 Chron 13:5
So what is this ‘covenant of salt?’ Salt represents permanence. Take note in the verses above how it uses the word ‘forever’. In our world today… nothing seems to have that kind of eternal quality. We live in a throw away world. But God is eternal. He wants his special creation, to be a people of salt. It is not that we are to become salt, as Lot’s wife, but we are to be found in perfect balance. Salt, when used properly and productively is very useful. But when used all by itself, it is horrible. Just take a teaspoonful and you will know what I mean. It tastes good on raw vegetables, in pickles, on your favorite cut of meat, but all by itself, it is awful.
God wants each of us to be ‘salty’ Christians. We are to change the flavor of the world we touch. The words that come from our lips should be words that reflect the permanent change Christ has worked in our lives. Jesus Himself spoke of salt. "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other." Mark 9:50 How often have you said words you wished you could take back? How often have you also heard other Christians cursing and swearing and it made you wonder about their real relationship with God? When we pretend to be Christians, we are like that deceptive salt that has lost its saltiness. Our lips betray us.
You have lots of salt in you. It is in your tears, in your sweat, and throughout your body. A little salt is necessary for good health. But too much salt is bad for you. Doctors will take heart patients off salt. It tends to thicken their blood and increase blood pressure. Salt needs to be kept in a balance. It may be used to melt snow on our highways, but it is also used to make ice cream. Moderation is the key word here. If we are to be salty in our lives, it is with moderation. But there is some salt that does not taste like salt. It has lost it’s flavor. That is what Jesus talked about. Paul taught in Col. 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Here he ties grace and salt together. It speaks of our speech being tasteful and moderate, reflecting our love for the Lord. Just as salt can melt ice, so our words, when seasoned with salt can melt the hearts of those who listen to the gospel message. The Word of God flowing from our lips must be salty.
Salt can make a person thirsty. Theatres often salt their popcorn just enough so you will also want to buy a drink. We live in a spiritually dry world that is looking and longing for a drink that will satisfy them. Jesus offered that kind of drink to the woman at the well. His words were ‘salty.’ She longed for that living water.
But why a covenant? A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. God made a covenant agreement with David, that his family would rule Israel forever. (2 Chron.13:5) That covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus has dominion over Israel forever. There is an eternal consequence to a salt covenant. When God made a covenant with David… it was all up to God to fulfill his promise. Jesus came from the line of David through both Mary and Joseph. By his death, he became the salted sacrifice offered before God to cleanse the people from their sin, not for a moment, but for all time. It is eternally available to all who will accept His provision of cleansing and forgiveness. It does not just cover the sin, but it removes it. It is a binding contract that God made on your behalf….a better covenant and a better sacrifice that we read about in the book of Hebrews.
So what about the salt in your life? Are you living in this ‘covenant of salt?’ Does your life reflect the saltiness of His love and peace? Perhaps you are struggling with some of the habits of the world around you...gambling, drinking, smoking, sexual promiscuity, gossip, bitterness, greed and pride. This list could go on and on. You know what’s wrong in your heart. It is up to you to place your life on the altar of the Lord and let the High Priest of your soul prepare the sacrifice properly, cutting away the sin, and corruption, and pouring in the salt that will preserve your soul and make you presentable for his mercy seat. Salt will hurt on an open wound, but when mixed with water in moderation it can speed the healing and bring cleansing.
Sometimes folks get too much salt, and they do it without thinking—like men who over-salt their wife’s tasty cooking. Too many people today eat just about anything spiritually that is set in front of them, before tasting it to see if it is balanced. That’s how cults get a foothold. They hear a Bible teacher on the radio or TV or even on the internet and they swallow it without measuring it against the Word of God. It sounds good. It feels good. It looks good. But inside there is poison. The salt of cults is salt that has lost is flavor. Sometimes it masks the flavor of rotten food. It does not compare to the genuine salt of the Word. We must be on our guard and measure false doctrine against the genuineness of the Word.
Christians need to sweat more. Many have become lazy believers. You know that in your sweat is all the excess salt that your body no longer needs. It oozes out of your pores, drips down your face and soaks your clothing. When we live in a world where we sometimes get too much of the wrong kind of salt, we need to be working for God, sweating as we labor for the Lord and crying salty tears as we pray for the lost. Too long the church has sat back and demanded that it be entertained and coddled. It’s time to put on our work clothes and get busy serving the Master. When we press in and work hard, we sweat. The closer we get to the fire of the Holy Spirit, the more our lives should shed that unneeded salt. The fire of His presence and the fire on the altar will bring out the impurities we have inadvertently taken in.
Did you know that newborn babies were usually washed with salt in the Bible days? It removed impurities from the skin, cleansed them from contamination of the blood. It helped to keep them from deadly infections. One of my children came into contact with a dangerous staphylococcus infection as a newborn and it nearly killed him. It all happened because the hospital changed their policy of what was to be used to wash down newborn infants. Perhaps those Bible days practices were not so bad after all. It makes me think of new-born believers, who often come in contact with spiritually deadly and dangerous contaminants. They need their lives salted with the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. They need to be daily bathed and cleansed from the worldly pollutants that would destroy them before they are strong enough to survive on their own.
Jesus told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth…” Are we? Are we this vital commodity that causes life instead of death? Health instead of illness? Spiritual wealth instead of poverty? Do we represent purity in a corrupt world? Do we create spiritual thirst? Next time you say “Pass the salt please”… remember that you too are to be the salt of the earth! J. Johnson