Pass The Salt

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The instructions for burnt offerings were not the only ones that the Israelites needed to keep in mind when they presented themselves before the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Leviticus 2 details what was necessary if an Israelite came to offer a grain offering to the Lord. One of the important items was never to offer anything with leaven in it. During the celebration of the Passover, unleavened bread was served in remembrance of the speed by which the Israelites had to leave Egypt—there was no time for the bread to rise!

But leaven also came to represent sin, and in the tradition of the Passover celebration, the house would be searched from top to bottom to make sure that there was no leaven in the house. It is said that sometimes people would entrust their leaven to a non-Jewish neighbour and then collect it again after the eight days of commemoration.

But something else comes up in this brief chapter in Leviticus. In verse 13, the author writes: “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.

For most of us today, “salt” is a four-letter word that keeps company with some other bad words in the dictionary of life. Some of us do our best to eliminate it from our diets in order to preserve our health.

But in the context of the sacrifices to be offered to the Lord, salt was an important element. Its absence today may say something about our desire to preserve health, but its presence in the grain offerings was a symbol of preservation—the preservation of the promise God had made to His people and the promises they had made in return. Every time the grain offerings were made, the people would be reminded of the covenant they had made with God to love Him and to follow Him.

Salt is a great preserving agent and a useful healing agent as well. It gives flavour to bland dishes.

Jesus used salt as an illustration of what believers are to be to the world around them.

Matthew 5:13: “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 through out and trampled by men.” This is the preservation quality—the walking as Jesus walked as a demonstration of what God wants from all of His creation, and our need to be preserving agents for good in society.

Colossians 4:6 reminds us that our words need to be “seasoned” as well. “Let your conversation be always full or grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Here we have the healing property of salt, the careful, gentle use of language that communicates the truth in love.

There is warning in the verse from Matthew 5. Salt without saltiness is useless. It gives no flavour. If moisture gets into the container, or if the container is left open for a long time, even salt will become useless. In the spiritual sense we might liken this to exposure to the contamination of the world.

When I was living in Venezuela I used to put grains of rice in my salt shaker. The humidity was so high that the salt often got wet, clumpy and useless. The rice soaked up the moisture and kept the salt running freely. “Rice” in our spiritual salt could represent our daily communion with the Lord, seeking forgiveness regularly for the frailties of our nature and the sins that so easily get the better of us, or any number of things that keep us close to the Lord and mindful of the promises He has made to us and those we have made to Him.

The next time you reach for the salt shaker, be careful. But also remember the importance of your own “saltiness” in the world in which you live.


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