I’m pretty sure I could spend all day, without success, trying to write an intriguing first line to make people want to read what I’ve written about salt. It’s just not a “sexy” topic.
But I came across something in Scripture that I think is cool, so bear with me.
In Exodus Moses has gone up the mountain to meet with God. There he receives the Ten Commandments but also instructions about the Tabernacle and all its furnishings, the priestly garments, and the process for consecrating Aaron and his sons before they begin their service.
Among all those instructions is a recipe for the incense that they were to burn before God–a recipe that was not to be used for any other purpose. Tucked between the list of ingredients and the warning not to use it like a common perfume was this:
With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. (Ex. 30:35 – emphasis mine)
Salted. And it’s not grouped with the ingredients but with the quality of the incense—the pure and holy mix that would be placed before God day in and day out.
I’m no chemist and have no idea what effect putting salt in with the other ingredients would cause. Would it act as a preservative? Would it enhance their natural aroma? Would it kill off bacteria?
In context, I lean toward the latter, but the fact is we don’t really know. Later, in Leviticus, we read that God commanded salt to be included with every grain offering, and there it is tied with the covenant of God (see Lev 2:13).
Which brings me to the take-away nugget from this verse in Exodus. Thousands of years after Moses met with God, Jesus calls us—His disciples—the salt of the earth. What did Jesus mean by this? He was speaking to a Jewish crowd who most likely knew about the place of salt in worship. According to Strong’s Lexicon salt as a symbol in an agreement was, and is still, common:
Salt is a symbol of lasting concord, because it protects food from putrefaction and preserves it unchanged. Accordingly, in the solemn ratification of compacts, the orientals were, and are to this day, accustomed to partake of salt together
Perhaps the best understanding, then, especially considering the context and what Jesus next said about us being light, is that, as salt, presented before God day after day, pure and holy, we are to stand as a witness to His faithfulness. We are the sign to the world that God has changed the course of things. Destined to face judgment, Man can now be reconciled with God, and we are the proof this is so.
Salt loses its saltiness.
Reminding you again that I’m no chemist, I’ll suggest the one way I know that salt can become unsalty. It can be diluted, particularly with liquid. I suppose heat or cold might also break apart the basic elements and the salt would cease being salt, but I don’t know.
Anyway, that doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is saying. Apparently the salt He referred to was still salt, just not salty. Without the quality that characterizes it, salt is worthless, Jesus said (see Matt. 5:13). Salt that isn’t salty could no longer be detected by those looking for evidence of God’s faithfulness.
Some years ago, author and speaker Rebecca Manley Pippert wrote a book about lifestyle evangelism entitled Out of the Saltshaker & into the World (IVP). The premise is that Christians should “let our lives provide the witness to our faith.”
It’s a great concept . . . unless we’ve lost our saltiness.
This post originally appeared here in September 2012.