Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What does it mean for our speech to be seasoned with salt?

What does it mean to be “the salt of the earth”? Or, in the epistle to the Colossians, where Paul exhorts his readers to be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6)?

I never really understood what it means so I finally put some old-fashioned rules of hermeneutics to use.

In Leviticus 2:13 the LORD commands Israel saying: “and every offering of thine oblation shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thine oblation: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.”

The LORD commanded that every meal offering be seasoned with salt. The Israelites were not to allow any meal offering lack salt from which God made a covenant of salt with them.

In Numbers 18:19 gives details about this covenant of salt: “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 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.” Here, the LORD is speaking to Aaron about what he and his seed as high priests will be blessed with in ministering to Israel. They receive a healthy supply of all the heave offerings, which includes a hearty portion of all sacrifices. This the LORD did as a covenant of salt. Because it was highly valued in old testament times, if a person were to share their salt with someone, even their worst enemy, their enemy is bound to protect them. A salt covenant is in effect, a covenant of friendship and hospitality. The Lord requires us to share our salt with him (Lev. 2:13), and He reciprocates with giving His priests the heave offerings in the old testament, which is a picture of the Christian’s blessings per Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

In Ezra 4, adversaries of Judah sent a letter to the king of Persia making false accusations against Zerubbabel and his fellow-laborers. The false accusations included insurrection, rebellion, and sedition against the king (Ezra 4:12-15). What is noteworthy is how the accusers appealed to the king by saying that because they eat the salt of the palace, they are bound to protect the honor of the king, and therefore they inform him of Zerubbabel’s activity. Eating someone’s salt was a sign of partaking of their hospitality, derive subsistence from him; and hence he who did so was bound to look after his host’s interests. But Zerubbabel, and the body of Christ as well, have eaten the salt of a different kingdom, and therefore should be mindful to protect the interest of our host, the Lord Jehovah. Zerubbabel was careful to not partner up with the adversaries of Judah in rebuilding the temple, and we should be careful to not fellowship with workers of Belial in building the Church.

Now, what does this have to do with being seasoned with salt? It is lovely and devotional, but does not the title of this article ask that very question about being seasoned with salt?

Mark 9:49-50: “For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith shall ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and peace with one another.”

Earlier in this chapter, we would read about the disciples doing unsavory things such as disputing among one another about who would be the greatest, and forbidding a man from casting out demons in Christ’s name. The Lord reminds them that just as every person would be judged by fire, every sacrifice had to be seasoned with salt. If the salt had no flavor, what then would be the point of using it? Salt has always been a crucial key to seasoning any meal. Many meals would not be complete without a dash of salt. Just as people refuse a meal unless it has been properly seasoned, the Lord refuses a sacrifice that is not properly seasoned. Our lives ought to be a sacrifice (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2). So, again, what does the salt refer to?

Salt might be considered the opposite of leaven, in that leaven corrupts, but salt preserves. Leaven speaks of pride, salt speaks of humility. As we have already pointed out, salt also gives flavor to a meal. These things are what made it a savor to God in the meal offerings.

The salt covenant referred to in Numbers 18:19 is called an everlasting one, and I think that although Israel has not been replaced by the Church, the Lord places His priests– whatever dispensation or age they may be in– under a covenant of salt, so to speak. We have an obligation as priests and representatives of the one true God to be a preservative, not so much in society, but to our fellow man.

Referring back to Colossians 4:6, our speech should be seasoned with grace and salt so that we may know how to answer every man. If our speech is seasoned with such things, our answers aid in putting us above reproach for they will be pleasant and filled with wisdom– flavorful and palatable. There is a parallel verse in Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” A similar thought stated differently: If our speech is seasoned with salt and grace, there will be no corrupt communication (remember what the symbol for corruption is? It isn’t salt) coming out of our mouths, but only that which edifies.

The disciples were not being the salt of the earth when they were arguing over who would be greatest. There was no humility there, or when they forbade the man who was not with them from casting out demons. They were lacking grace, and were not edifying those around them.

As disciples of Christ, we eat the salt of the kingdom of Heaven, so let us honor the King, our Lord by salting our lives with the salt of His word and His Spirit that it may be a savor unto Him.