Friday, February 4, 2011
Are You Salty? Do You Add a Good Flavor?
Ezra was in Babylon during the exile when he received a letter from King Artaxerxes. Some of the exiles had returned to Judah, but the letter informed Ezra that he was to go and take with him the things he needed to help in the ceremony to honor and praise God at the Temple in Jerusalem. The King gave Ezra all the animals and grain for sacrifice, the musicians, gatekeepers, and temple workers he needed to accomplish the task. Ezra was selected for this assignment because he was diligent in studying and observing the Law of Moses.
Ezra 7:22 is part of the letter King Artaxerxes sent to Ezra, and it includes this list of necessary items for the sacrifice: up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. (NIV)
This list fascinates me because of the last item: salt without limit. I have sought to understand this little entry, and I find it more than a little intriguing. Salt was required to be used on all the sacrifices. Salt is a preservative. It wouldn’t be good for the sacrifice to begin to smell bad or yield to attack from flies and worms. No! The salt served a valuable purpose. Even the meal and grain offering contained salt; the bread had no yeast, but it was made with fine flour, oil and salt. Maybe in the grain offerings salt served to symbolize that offerings made to God must be uncorrupted. John Wesley’s definition of the meaning of salt emphasizes that uncorrupted attitudes and motives must accompany our offerings, prayers, and work for God.
There is no measurement we can place on things represented by salt. The salt was provided as long as it was needed. There was to be no limit. What can we call salt? Is love a commodity that is represented by salt? Is forgiveness? Is faith? It is to be offered as long as it is needed. Love, forgiveness, faith and, maybe patience, peace, and self-control, too, are required of each of us. And they may be required to extend beyond our human power to produce. That is when we must go to our source, to the salt mine for restocking. God never meant for us to be salt without him. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.”(Matthew 5:13) We can be the salt as long as we remember where our salty flavor comes from and where we must go to get refilled.
God wants us to know he has an endless supply of all the necessary commodities to live in his grace, and he supplies us just like Ezra supplied the salt for the sacrifices—without limit.