Salt - A PIcture Of God's Design For His People

by Ray Hawkins

Misquoting is almost an international pastime. Someone is quoted on some political, moral, spiritual issue and before long a furore begins. Denials, interviews, counter-charges etc., make interesting reading on a bus or waiting for the football to start, but in reality misquoting is a form of conspiracy. For its aim is to discredit, abuse or belittle another person, race or belief. It is an art form from the portico of Hades for it has wrecked many a man, woman and group.

Given the vote, who would you support for the most misquoted person in history? Mine would go to Jesus Christ. From pulpit orators to 'lamp-post leaners' the mutilated words of Jesus Christ are aired with the authority of the ignorant or the subtlety of the subversive.

The only defence a person has against this conspiracy is to be heard or quoted in context.

Somehow or other the Lord Jesus has been branded as some type of enemy of the Jewish people. In some quarters He is blamed for their persecutions, their dispersion and isolation into ghettoes. Unfortunately well-meaning but ignorant disciples or simply evil men have hidden behind the cloak of Christ while perpetrating their own designs. Don't judge the Lord Jesus by such men. Let Him stand for Himself. How did He view His own people?

The Salt of the Earth

In Matthew 5:13 He is recorded as saying, "Ye are the salt of the earth" . Now the question is raised to whom was He referring? To answer that will in part answer the preceding one.

The Christian church has for centuries claimed this title for itself. And in many ways, and in spite of bad lapses of faith and practice, the church has influenced the world for good and God. But when these words were spoken the church was not yet in existence. It was born after the cross and resurrection experience of the Lord Jesus. So only in a secondary manner can the church claim this title, Salt of the Earth.

Some would claim that it refers to the disciples. They certainly had the 'Salt' to offer the world in the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus. But the context goes on to state that there was a decaying process under way. At this stage the disciples had not even put their marching shoes on, let alone have had time to turn sour. So the term and title must go beyond this eager band.

This is why I believe that the statement points out the calling and coming catastrophe of Abraham's descendants. It also reveals the tenderness and concern of the Messiah for his fellow Israelites.

Salt is to Combat Rottenness

Salt has the power to preserve. It fights off those germs and bacteria which would spoil and corrupt the food set aside for later. Israel was called to do battle with the moral and spiritual rottenness of Mankind. They were heaven's salt containers having within the bosom of the nation the Law and Statutes of the Everlasting Lord. Because salt is useless locked within the shaker, God saw to it that His 'containers' were strategically placed to shake His word into the Gentile nations.

Even when conquered, and often in spite of themselves, the Jewish nation 'salted' the Mediterranean countries with the teachings of God. And it was a common complaint in the days of Tiberius Caesar that these people, the Jewish believers in Messiah, "that have turned the world upside down are come here also" (Acts 17:6). So whilst God chose the children of Israel for His own, it was His purpose to draw the Gentile nations to His banner through them.

The very existence of His people, Law and Promises, was an indication that He would not leave the world in the rottenness of sin. His 'Salt' offered hope.

Salt is Health to the Body

If we live and work in a hot climate our body needs the revitalization offered by salt. And it is a remarkable fact that workers in salt mines and salt factories who inevitably live in a briny atmosphere rarely contract colds, rheumatism or neuralgia. The air they breathe is bracing and health-preserving.

God had decreed that his words were to be health to the body of humanity. So at Mount Sinai Israel was commissioned to scatter His words across the land. They were to be as relief workers in the midst of a hapless humanity which was being drained by immorality and poisoned by perverted religions. Is it any wonder that God became angry when His people blocked His words from doing the job because of the self-righteousness or idolatry of the 'shakers'? So often the story of Israel reads as God's constant need to clean the 'shakers' in order to scatter the salt. Malachi speaks of the weariness of God in the constant effort to keep His people moral and motivated.

Salt Makes Us Thirsty

Anyone who eats salted peanuts well knows this fact. Surely herein lies a testimony to Israel's calling. They were called to make the great and powerful, as well as the degraded and ignorant nations around them, thirsty for the True and Living God. With the Law and prophets and the hope of the Messiah, Israel was to stir a longing for God that no sacrifice was too great to satisfy. As David so beautifully expressed it, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:2)

The tragedy was, however, that Israel often failed. Only isolated pockets existed where these privileged people pursued their calling. The nation began to lose its savour.


It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13). In this solemn judgement Christ reveals the insight of a discerning student of the affairs of His people. He could see the way in which lust for power and political and spiritual compromise were heading. Nearly three years later He sat upon a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem and wept. He loved His people and He loved the Holy city. But He knew that the course the leaders had chosen meant the destruction of the nation. His statement would be found true and all would come to pass but it gave Him no delight.

For even in His time self-acclaimed Messiahs would lead hundreds to oblivion in a vain attempt to cast off the Roman yoke. Others played a far more cunning game. They sold their heritage and integrity for the trappings of political power. It was the meek, weak and faithful who were caught between the jaws of this horrid vice. So it was that the words of the Lord Jesus were prophetic. They pierced the years to the final showdown between Rome and Israel. This awareness of the Rabbi from the Carpenter's bench made the path to Golgotha that much sadder, for He had friends and loved ones who could not escape the grief of the coming days. Even in His pain He tried to warn those who lined the way:

"Daughters of Jerusalem ,weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming in which they shall say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck . . . For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?'" (Luke 23:27-31)

It is a recorded fact that when the Roman legions of Titus marched on Jerusalem many remembered the words of the Lord. For He had warned: "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies then know the desolation thereof is nigh, Then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it depart out." (Luke 21:20-21) No thinking person in the light of Jesus' warnings and tears could ever accuse Him of being an opponent of His brethren after the flesh.

In ancient times it was not uncommon for a conqueror to scatter salt over a destroyed city to symbolize its desolation. This is what Abimelech did to Shechem (Judges 9:45). It was a curse such as this that was bound up in the warnings of Moses against apostasy (Deuteronomy 29:21-25). What Israel felt in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was ploughed over and likewise covered with salt was the outworking of this curse. So effective has it been that only recently has desolation in the land begun to give way to delight. The question that is uppermost in the minds of Bible students is, "How long before this desolation ceases altogether, if cease it will?"

Only God knows His calendar, but this we know, since May 1948 the curse of salt has been dissipating. Maybe we are the generation that will see the fulfilment of Hosea's prophecy:

"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image and without an ephod and without teraphim: afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." (3:4,5)

While there are undoubtedly many other prophetic aspects to be considered I believe we live in 'latter days', and should be on 'red alert', for the time when the Messiah will return may be closer than many think.

God still has work to do with and for His 'Salt', the Jewish nation. And what a day that will be when the Messiah and His nation and the redeemed from all the earth are reconciled the one with the other.

"Thus says the Lord of Hosts; in those days it shall come to pass that ten men out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the garment of him that is a Jew saying, 'We will go with you for we have heard that God is with you'." (Zechariah 8:23)