Salt and light

salt and light
part 1
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)
Those who receive God’s word have a dual purpose in this world, namely to be its salt and light. The meaning of these allegories may seem clear, but Jesus is placing a weighty responsibility on his hearers which we must be sure to understand. Part one of this article explores the salt allegory, discovering some of its deeper implications.
The Law required salt as an ingredient of various sacrifices. Leviticus 2:11-16 sets out the requirements for grain or meat presented as first-fruits or as a free-will offering:
Every offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in an offering made to the LORD by fire … Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
If you bring a grain offering of first-fruits to the LORD, offer crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire. Put oil and incense on it; it is a grain offering. The priest shall burn the memorial portion of the crushed grain and the oil, together with all the incense, as an offering made to the LORD by fire.
We know that the Old Testament sacrifices and their requirements pointed towards realities that were later revealed in Christ. While the Passover and atonement sacrifices typified the redemption and forgiveness obtained in the blood of Jesus, the fellowship or free will offering foreshadowed the true and acceptable worship of the saints, who would offer themselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the LORD (Rom 12:1). Paul said of the life he had spent for the Kingdom of God: I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time for my departure has come(2 Tim 4:6).
Most of the symbolism of the Leviticus passage is clear:
o         You are not to burn any yeast or honey in an offering made to the LORD.
Both yeast and honey cause a mutation of the natural substance into a corrupted form. According to Keil and Delitzsche,[1] honey was used to induce fermentation in the production of alcohol or vinegar. The New Testament describes the yeast as hypocrisy, wickedness and profanity (Luke 12:1, 1 Cor 5:6-8). Our worship of God must therefore be pure and unadulterated – not compromised with sin and free from the corrupting influences of false teachings.
o         Put oil and incense on it.
Oil represents the Holy Spirit and its fruits (e.g. Zec 4:12) and incense represents the prayers that are carried up before the Lord (see Peter Cohen’s article “The spiritual symbolism of the tabernacle Part 6 published in the 4thQuarter 2006 edition). As true worshippers offer themselves as a living sacrifice, it is to do works that are motivated and prompted by the Holy Spirit and empowered by the Lord through prayer.
o         Fire represents that which burns up dead works, those acts that have no eternal consequence.
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Cor 3:12-15)
But what is the meaning of the salt that must be added to the sacrifice, referred to in Leviticus 2:13 as the salt of the covenant of your God?
Jesus says: You are the salt of the earth.
Salt is commonly used to flavour food and in the curing of meat as a preservative or disinfectant. It also has the effect of rendering soil infertile and uninhabitable (see Ps 107:34).
In light of these common uses:
o         Did Jesus mean of those who received his word that they add the flavour to God’s creation? As He looks down on a world that has become corrupt and alienated from Him, are we His delight, the ones who make creation palatable to God?
o         Could it suggest that we preserve the world? Do the saints, as a reminder to the world of God’s existence and His moral requirements, serve to constrain it in its rebellion, and cause others to regard His laws and precepts?
o         Could it also mean that we, the salt of the earth, must ultimately lead to its judgment and destruction? For the word of God is a double edged sword, and the testimony to Christ brings those who resist him into condemnation.
These are true, biblical functions of the saints, but there must be a deeper significance, if we are to understand the typology of Leviticus 2:13 in its fullness:Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
Fausset in his Bible Encyclopaedia notes the Middle East custom of taking salt as a token of trust and faithfulness:
Covenants were cemented by feasts and hospitality, the viands of which were seasoned, as all foods, with salt. Hence, ‘a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord’ is an indissoluble covenant (Num 18:19; 2Ch 13:5; Ezr 4:14, margin). An Arab who just before would have robbed and murdered you, once you taste his salt, would die to save you; ‘faithless to salt’ is the Persian term for a traitor. Hence, the Arabic word for a compact or agreement is the same as that for salt.
Just as no meal is complete without salt, an agreement is worth nothing without the fidelity and trust of the parties involved. Keil and Delitzsche comment on Leviticus 2:13 –
The meaning which the salt, with its power to strengthen food and preserve it from putrefaction and corruption, imparted to the sacrifice, was the unbending truthfulness of that self-surrender to the Lord embodied in the sacrifice, by which all impurity and hypocrisy were repelled. The salt of the sacrifice is called the salt of the covenant, because in common life salt was the symbol of covenant; treaties being concluded and rendered firm and inviolable, according to a well-known custom of the ancient Greeks (see Eustathius ad Iliad. i. 449) which is still retained among the Arabs, by the parties to an alliance eating bread and salt together, as a sign of the treaty which they had made.
Faith is that additional ingredient that must be added to our worship of God. From Hebrews 11:6 we know, without faith it is impossible to please God. Romans 14:23 reveals that everything that does not come from faith is sin.
By faith God’s promises are fulfilled. God acts when men trust Him to perform His word:
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:17-18)
The precedent established by Elijah is a simple one to follow:
o         The LORD said to Israel: Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce (Deut 11:16-17).
o         Elijah observed that Israel was given over to idolatry. (See 1 Kings 16:29-33.)
o         Elijah thus prayed for God to perform His word and God acted accordingly.
Jesus says to those who have received his word: You are the salt of the earth. Onlyyou who have received the word can act on it. No one can act in faith, but you!
We are the ones who must bring God’s will into effect – on earth as it is in heaven. It is only by faith that we bring about the affects of salt discussed earlier. We become a sweet smelling aroma unto the Lord for those who being saved, and a stench unto those who are perishing (2 Cor 2:15-16). We act as agents of redemption and reconciliation to those who receive God’s love, but we also turn fertile lands into barren wasteland as we facilitate God’s judgment against ungodliness.
We do this by believing that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto the salvation of all who believe (Rom 1:16), and therefore proclaiming it. We continue in a steadfast witness to him – in word and deed – because whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18).
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them (2 Tim 3:1-5).
Salt that has lost its saltiness is of no value – it can only be revealed for its hypocrisy and thrown out to be trampled on by the unbelieving world. A saltless, faithless Christianity has lost its power – it is unable to bring anything into effect: neither salvation nor judgment.

[1] Commentary on Levitcus 2:12.