by Lorraine Ezell
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his
savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good
for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under
foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13) Jesus called us “the salt of
the earth”. What did He mean by that? There was always
a reason behind everything Jesus said and every word He
used- everything had significance. He often used natural
things to explain things that had spiritual meaning. This
was what He did by teaching in parables and analogies.
In the parables He used things that people could relate
to such as sheep, vineyards, shepherds, coins and sons.
So why did He chose to use salt to represent who believers
are in the earth?
I decided to do a study on salt and what I found was very interesting. In ancient times salt was a very valuable and rare commodity. Roman soldiers were paid with salt. Salt was used as a monetary exchange- thus the saying, “worth his weight in salt”, or “not worth his salt”, meant that the person was valuable and needed or not valuable at all. Salt is used in preserving foods, curing meat and as a flavoring. I discovered that there are over 14,000 uses for salt- everything from its use as an antiseptic to helping freeze ice cream.
I decided to look in the Bible and see how salt was used in the scriptures.
It was used as a flavoring. “Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” (Job 6:6)
People used it to “salt their newborn babies”. “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.” (Ezekiel 16:4) They believed that salt had antiseptic properties and would kill any germs that newborn babies received from their washing after birth. There were no water treatment plants around back then and the water often was full of harmful bacteria and the baby could contract a disease.
The Dead Sea- also called the Salt Sea in the Bible- was used as a boundary line for the children of Israel. “And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.” (Numbers 34:12)
Salt was used in meat offerings to the Lord. “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” (Leviticus 2:13) “And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the LORD.” (Ezekiel 43:24) When Ezra rebuilt the temple, King Cyrus sent everything that was needed in order to furnish the temple for sacrifice and worship. “Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail.” (Ezra 6:8,9) Salt was included in the list of provisions.
Salt was also used as a symbol of a perpetual covenant between God and Israel. “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.” (Numbers 18:19) And between David and his descendants when God gave them the throne of Israel. “Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” (2 Chronicles 13:5)
I discovered that salt was used in a miracle to heal the waters of Jericho. “One day the leaders of the town of Jericho visited Elisha. ‘We have a problem, my lord,’ they told him. ‘This town is located in pleasant surroundings, as you can see. But the water is bad, and the land is unproductive.’ Elisha said, “Bring me a new bowl with salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring that supplied the town with water and threw the salt into it. And he said, ‘This is what the Lord says: I have purified this water. It will no longer cause death or infertility.’ And the water has remained pure ever since, just as Elisha said.” (2 Kings 2:19-22- New Living Translation)
There was another use that I found for salt in the Bible. I call it a “negative” way. “And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.” (Judges 9:45) When there was a battle between two countries, the one who was victorious would not only destroy the city of their enemy, but sometimes if they wanted to make sure that the city was not rebuilt they would “salt the land”. This salting would make the land sterile and unable to bear or reproduce anything. No one could live without being able to raise crops for food or livestock.
With this information about salt (and there is so much more that we could say but we are only hitting the high points) I want to now address some of what Jesus meant when He said that we are the “salt of the earth”.
“Ye are the salt of the earth.” Jesus said you “are” the salt of the earth. He didn’t say that you are going to be or will become, but already are. So if we are “salt” already, how did we become it? Remember we said that God made a covenant between Himself and Israel and called it a Salt Covenant? When God gets ready to come into a relationship with someone, some group of people or something, He does it through a “covenant”. Let me define the word covenant. From the Greek translation it means- a disposition, arrangement, of any sort, a testament or will, a compact. The dictionary defines it as- a binding agreement made by two or more individuals or parties, etc.; to do or keep from doing a specific thing; a promise. The Hebrew defines it this way- The word is used with reference to God’s revelation of Himself in the way of promise or of favor to men. If God made a covenant with Israel in the Old Testament that made them His people, then He makes a covenant with you and me today also that will make us His people- it is called the New Testament. So to answer the question of how we became salt- we became salt through a covenant with God. “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27,28) Jesus became the mediator of the new covenant that God would make with His people. “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15) “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Hebrews 8:6-10)
Jesus was not only seen in the New Testament, but the Old Testament is full of types and shadows that reveal Him. For example, every piece of the tabernacle in the wilderness represented Christ- the brazen altar, the laver, the shew bread, even the stakes and ropes of the curtains. And of course, the sacrifice itself. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29b) Remember again we said that salt was used in the sacrifices? “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” (Leviticus 2:13) Every sacrifice had to be salted, if it wasn’t God would not accept it. Why?
1) Salt represented commitment. God is committed to the covenant that He makes. We may break a covenant that we are in with others or with God, but God will never break it. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” (Psalm 89:34) Salt was a reminder before the Lord and the people of the covenant that they were in- in the same way the rainbow is a reminder of the covenant that God made with Noah to never flood the earth again.
2) Salt had to be present because it has no leavening in it. Leaven represents sin. Presenting it with salt pointed to Jesus- the sacrifice that was without sin that was to come. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
3) The salt had to be present on the sacrifice because it was a shadow of better things to come- a type and shadow of the sacrifice that Jesus would make on a sacrificial altar (called the old rugged cross) that would establish a better covenant between God and His people. Salt is also translated in the Hebrew as: rubbed on, and to pulverize. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:4,5,10,11) Jesus was beaten, bruised, smitten of God- pulverized, if you will- in order to save us from our sins and establish the new covenant. The old covenant was established by the Law. There wasn’t a problem with the Law that made the first covenant faulty, the Law hasn’t been done away with- Jesus didn’t come to destroy it. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17) His whole ministry while on earth kept the law as the center theme- He was always referring to it and pointing the people back to it. The problem was that we couldn’t keep the covenant because of our sinful nature. Sin made it impossible to keep the Law. Even if we kept all of it but missed it on one point, then we were guilty of all. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) The new covenant comes to us because of Jesus’ sacrifice- not our good works or religious deeds. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) God saw the “salt” (every sacrifice had to be salted in order to be accepted) when Jesus was presented on the altar/cross and He was well pleased with the sacrifice. (Please take time to read Hebrews chapters 8,9,10 at your convenience)
You and I come into covenant relationship with God when we “see” and “taste” the “salt” of Jesus’ sacrifice. “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8) What does it mean to “taste and see the salt” of His sacrifice? It means that we accept by faith and put our trust in the fact that through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross He has taken the punishment of our sins so that we can be forgiven and come into right relationship with God because of what He did.
Now that we know how we became salt, what does that mean? It means that when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus to take away our sins and put us in a covenant relationship with God, our lives are now “salted” with Him. “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:15a) We are to live as He lived. We have become “living sacrifices”. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) As living sacrifices we are to live with our lives continually salted. When God sees us as “living sacrifices” that means He is looking for “salt” in our lives as well. Remember again that the sacrifices always had to have salt on them. It is no different for us- our lives have to posses salt- that is because we too are in a “Salt Covenant” with Him. The salt is the righteous nature and character of Christ. It is to be “seen and tasted” in our everyday affairs. If you noticed in Matthew the verses right prior to the verse where Jesus says we are the salt of the earth are the Beatitudes- also known as the “Being Attitudes”. It is no coincidence that they are in context with Jesus’ statement concerning us being salt. Once we become salt in the earth, then there is an attitude salt should have--- the Beatitudes. This is how our saltiness is tasted by others, as well as through the Fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22,23)
When the priest brought the sacrifices, it was part of their worship. If the salt wasn’t there that meant that not only was their offering rejected but their worship was as well. If we don’t have salt in our lives when we bring our worship to the Lord He won’t accept it either. God has certain requirements and if we don’t meet them then He won’t accept what we do or what we bring to Him. Just like His promises- if we don’t meet the conditions we won’t receive the promises. “Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.” (Amos 5:22) “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18)
Being salt also means that when the Lord looks at our lives and sees the salt, He remembers the sacrifice that Jesus made and the punishment for our sins that was laid upon Him. This causes God to look at us with favor. He declares that we are forgiven, righteous and justified. We are no longer under the judgment of sin but now have peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1,2) He sees us no longer clothed with our own filthy righteousness but now with the righteousness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21) “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)
When Jesus said that we were the salt of the earth, there was also gave a warning attached to it. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13) The warning was not to lose your savor/saltiness.
How do we lose our saltiness? There were four ways, that I discovered, according to the Bible that we can lose our savor. The first way deals with the way we treat the word of God and His commandments. Immediately after Jesus referred to His followers as light and salt He went on to say, in context, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17,18) If we neglect the word of God, if we don’t build our lives upon its teachings, if we compromise it and water it down, if we live in disobedience to it, then we stand the risk of losing our savor.
The next way we lose it is by forsaking the covenant that we are in with God. “And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them.” (Deuteronomy 29:23-26) If we start serving other “gods”- mammon, entertainment, pleasure, selfish desires, fame and popularity, or anything else above God- then we are in danger of losing our saltiness.
The third way is by putting our trust in man and having our confidence in the “arm of flesh”- human strength and ability- instead of in God. “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” (Jeremiah 17:5-7)
The last way is by doing the same thing that Lot’s wife did. God graciously and mercifully delivered Lot’s family out of Sodom before the judgment fell upon the city. God told them to leave the city and don’t look back. Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked back. When she did, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Instead of receiving and being a blessing, she became an unsavory lump of salt good for nothing but to be trampled under foot. “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) When she looked back, she wasn’t just “glancing” to get a “peek” at what was happening. She was in disobedience to God’s command not to look back. Disobedience is a slow road to losing your savor. One disobedient act leads to another one and pretty soon you are in rebellion- and unsavory. But with Lot’s wife the reason she was turned to a pillar of salt goes deeper than even her disobedience. Jesus used her as a warning to us. “Remember Lot’s wife”. (Luke 17:32) Read the verse with me in context. “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (vvs. 30-33) The words “looked back” mean to have regard for. Lot’s wife looked back with longing and desire. She was longing for her house, her possessions, all the things she had and had to leave. Her heart was still in her material possessions and she looked back desiring to have them and with remorse for having to leave them. Looking back with desire to the things that God delivered us from and trying to hold on to material things will cause us to lose our saltiness. That was Jesus’ warning. If you try to hold on to your life you will lose it instead. Let the “things” go. Don’t hold on to them in your heart. Don’t long for what you once had and turn from what the Lord has for you now. He is trying to take you to a place of “safety” so that you can live- just like He tried to do for Lot’s wife. But if you “look back” it will only turn you into a lump of useless, worthless salt instead of the wonderful aroma and flavor of Christ that you are called to be in the earth. “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
There is another consequence to losing your saltiness that I want to address. It’s barrenness. Remember we said that when a city was conquered that it was salted in order to make it sterile/barren so that it could not be rebuilt? When an individual, a nation or a church looks to and places their trust in man above God, serves self instead of God, becomes materialistic and compromises the gospel they are in danger of becoming barren. God never intended for His people to be barren and unfruitful. The very first command given to man at creation was to be fruitful. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:27,28) Before we came to Christ our lives were a barren wasteland. But after Christ comes into our lives they are to a fruitful oasis. We must, therefore, guard against those things that would make us un-salty and barren. We must keep our faith strong and relationship in order with God.
When Jesus said that we are the “salt of the earth” along with that comes responsibility. He said we are “salt in the earth”. That means that we can’t stay within the four walls of the church and hide our “salt shaker”. We must go out into the world and through the flavor and aroma of Christ that is upon our lives let others “taste and see” that He is good and He is what they need in their lives. We mentioned earlier that God performed a miracle at Jericho through the prophet Elisha by healing the waters that were causing the women to be barren. “And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.” (2 Kings 2:20,21) What a beautiful picture of exactly what Jesus said in Matthew. The prophet took a new bowl and put salt in it and then threw the salt into the waters and they were healed. We become “new bowls” when we come to Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Salt is then poured into our lives, like we have talked about. And now God intends to take us and put/cast us out into suffering, hurting and lost humanity- those waters that need healing- so that their lives can be touched by God’s healing, saving power and so that they will no longer be barren but receive life- eternal life and abundant life.
Let me leave you with these thoughts Are you salt? Have you received Jesus as Savior and Lord by accepting the sacrifice that He was for your sins? Are you being a living sacrifice that is salty? Does God “see and smell” the salt on your life when He looks at it? Is the aroma of Christ there? What are you doing with the salt? Have you lost your savor? Are you hiding your salt within the walls of the church, or are you taking it into the world and letting others get a taste of the Lord who will bring healing to their lives? “Ye are the salt of the earth.”