“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matthew 5:13
Well, I’ve just been learning the absolutely necessary characteristics of a believer, the characteristics that reflect those of You, Lord, Yourself. I’ve been learning of the characteristics that flow from one who is walking and living in a personal, obedient, surrendered relationship with and in You. And I’ve learned that persecution and hard times will accompany this relationship just by nature of the fact that it is antagonistic to the status quo in the world. But regardless, I can know You so deeply and experience Your presence and power in such a real way that I can still rejoice and be glad in the midst of it all.
So it sounds to me like I as a believer have something to shout about, like I as a believer have something that ought to benefit others and benefit the world around me. After all, this relationship, this salvation, this forgiveness, this power has benefited me. Well, how is this relationship of mine effecting the world around me? Is it?
Jesus, You Yourself were talking to Your disciples, even the would-be disciples, which means that You are still talking to us today. “You are the salt of the earth.” What does that mean? What did people think of when You mentioned salt as an object lesson? Today we use salt for flavoring, for melting ice on roadways and walkways, and for a preservative but I’m not so sure we think about that preservative part as much now adays. In the days when You walked on earth, in this day that You uttered these words for the first time for our ears, probably the greatest importance of salt was for preserving food. There was no refrigerating system. If food wasn’t preserved by salt, it decayed quickly.
The day You shared this message, Lord, You were standing atop a hill beside the Sea of Galilee. That sea was a sea teaming with life. Peter, Andrew, James, and John especially would have realized that because they were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Now what if when You were sharing about being salt, people were drawn away from thinking of the healthy, life-giving, fresh water of the Sea of Galilee, to the thoughts of another sea? What if their thoughts were drawn to the Dead Sea which they also would have been familiar with.
The Dead Sea actually has such a high quantity of salt minerals that it is impure and cannot be used for drinking water. It has so many salt minerals that there are layers of undesolved crystals on the bottom of the deepest parts because the water cannot saturate any more. Water flows into the sea but there is no out source for the water to flow from the sea. So evaporation removes water content and the sea continually acts as a receptacle for more and more salt. It’s so deadly to plant and animal life that if a fish happens to start swimming into it, even at the edges the fish will immediately die, being coated by the chemicals, and immediately preserved!
So, I want to think of those two contrasting seas today. One a sea of living water that flows in and out to other sources. A sea that teams with life. And another sea, a sea of death and stagnancy. Could these seas represent my life?
“You are the salt of the earth.” Now all salt is not bad. We need salt to live. Salt adds flavor, it enhances, it makes things able to endure, it purifies, and it preserves. So the question I have to ask is, “Who is the real salt?” Jesus, You must be the Salt that makes me salted. I’m Your receptacle just like the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea. What I determine to do with You, determines my effect on the world around me. I suppose that ignoring or denying You is just as detrimental as receiving You and then never letting You do anything through my life because I remain in control.
Salt was precious in Biblical times. It was covenantally binding. In Leviticus, You shared, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” But this salt was to not only be added to the grain offerings, but to all the offerings. In Numbers 18:19 we find, “All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the Lord I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord for you and for your offspring with you.” See, the priests weren’t receiving a land inheritance. You, God, were their inheritance and their provision. But here’s a twist. This phrase is used one last time in 2 Chronicles 13:5 in reference to David. “Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” So maybe, just maybe, this whole idea of salt goes deeper than we’ve been thinking.
Some people argue it’s preserving element in the offerings when salt was added. But those weren’t even supposed to be eaten by the priests. The whole animal was consumed by fire. Some argue it’s purifying or cleansing properties to clean away the blood. But that wouldn’t always fit either. And what about David, who was from the tribe of Judah, and not the priestly tribe?
Chris Suitt shared the words of another scholar, “salt had an enduring quality and therefore in the Middle East salt was used in ceremonies to seal an agreement. Hence, the idea may simply be that God’s call upon the Kohenim and their service whould endure, i.e., overcome all things.” But Chris continues this thought. “Could it be that the ‘covenant of salt’ was all about a relationship with God based upon trust?” He continues, “The people were to trust God by giving the salt that was put into their offering. Their God would provide for them and they were to give back out of love and obedience. The priests and Levites were to trust God by serving Him without a land inheritance like their brothers. Their God would provide for their livelihood while they were away from their cities which were interspersed throughout Israel. David and his sons were to trust God as the King and serve Him, believing He would keep the throne moving through David’s line long after David and his sons departed the scene.”
Even the Hebrew word for “covenant”, “beriyth”, is “an agreement or alliance between two parties where each party makes a pledge to keep their end of the bargain.” God first used this word with Noah. If Noah fulfilled his end of the bargain in building the ark, God would fulfill his end and get them safely through. Think about the trust this took. Noah had never even seen rain before and wasn’t anywhere near a large body of water. And gathering food for all kinds of animals of which he may not have even seen before? Think of the mutual trust. But Noah demonstrated his trust by his actions carried out according to the words of God. He “did everything just as God commanded him.”
And even though God sometimes bears all the weight of His covenants, I think we’ll find that trusting is sometimes as hard for us as building an ark. Trusting You, Lord, seems to become the harder issue for some people, and even me sometimes. So this is just something to think about when You tell us, “You are the salt of the earth.”
But what about that word for salt? It’s “melach”. And I just found out that though it means “to rub to pieces or pulverize, to disappear as dust, or to season or rub with salt”, it is primarily used in Scripture to refer to the Dead Sea! Listen to what Ezekiel 47:1-10 shares about the Dead Sea becoming fresh. It shares about the river of life giving water that flows from the coming temple of God. And as this water flows into the Dead Sea “when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglain it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.” And then the Lord adds one more interesting thing. “But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh, they are to be left for salt.” Hm. Thinking about that one.
So, these people Jesus was speaking to before, when they heard about salt, probably went to thinking about the Salt Sea, well, if they were being guided by His Spirit and opened to His way of thinking. So they were brought to think about a dead sea of salt, without benefit to others or self, to a sea made new, teaming with life from a new source. In other words, “You are the salt of the earth by the nature of what You have allowed Me, Jesus, through the power of God in the Holy Spirit to do in You. You are the salt of the earth as You let my character flow through You. Guys, that’s what the “beatitudes” are all about. See, I’m the Living Water. Without me flowing through you, then you are just a dead salt sea. But if any man immerses himself fully in Me, I make him a new creation, I make his waters new, the old is history, and the new stuff in him flows like Me, there to give life to others and life abundantly.”
“You are the salt of the earth.” That verse isn’t a seperate sentence. It ties in with everything that we’ve just learned before it in Chapter 5 and before. It’s what a life immersed in trust in You, Jesus, looks like and acts like and is like. It’s a new life, a changed life, teaming with You.
This is a life that is so changed that it effects the heart of my decision making and choices in life. Now, I become motivated by Your calling, not according to my planning. My finances aren’t driven by how I can best care for myself, but how I can best share compassionately with others. My relationship with You is reflected in my heart towards others, and not even those others I am familiar with, but those I don’t know, or even those who misuse me. Your truth must flow through me and out to others or I feel like I’ll burst, even if others would reject me for sharing. I see moral decay around me and I want to act to change it, to hold it back. I so want to grow closer to You, to seek Your will more and more, that I study Your word and spend time with You like it is my greatest treasure. I serve You and others not because of what I gain but because of what You have done in my heart. I must spend time with You in devoted prayer because spending time with You means everything to my health.
See, You make Your people the salt of the earth. You, and You alone, are our savour. Without You salting me, I am nothing. No, it’s even worse. Without You salting me, I am nothing good and good for nothing. So here You are, driving Your point home. Since verse 3, You’ve been inviting me to surrender in You, to let You flow Your living waters through me. You’ve been inviting me to new life like the Dead Sea one day, only my new life begins or began the day I surrender or surrendered to You. And the wonderful thing about surrendering to Your lordship, to You as my savior and king, is that Your person, Your nature, Your You-ness flows into me and out of me to others. But if I’ve never been drastically changed, well, I’m still the Dead Sea. My question today is, have you let Christ totally change you or are you still in control? Lord, I want to be totally changed in You. Don’t ever let me forget the picture of the Dead Sea and how You make it a sea teaming with life.