Salt and Light: Personal or national? Both?
Warning: Don’t read God’s Word unless you intend to obey what He tells you in it.
1 My child, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.
Yesterday, we looked at the Beattitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. “We find [the Beattitudes] an abstract of Jesus’ history-altering intention for establishing the kingdom of heaven as well as a clue to Matthew’s organization of his Gospel.” This quote is from a website that gives insight into the “blessings” of Jesus: The Beattitudes. Today, we continue in chapter 5 with Jesus’ illustration concerning salt and light.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. NASB
Jesus was Jewish. He followed the Law to its fullest extent–at least, in its original intent. We must remember that it was Jesus who gave the Law to Moses; He knew its intent. He perfectly fulfilled the Law because He WAS the Law. Matthew, too, was Jewish and wrote to a Jewish audience. We must interpret everything Matthew wrote from a Jewish perspective.
Salt was used in 30 A.D. for several purposes. It was a flavoring, a preservative, and a healing agent. When salt had too many other ingredients in it, it was considered impure and was relegated to being spread on roads to keep grass and weeds from growing. I believe that Jesus was referring to the nation of Israel. Their “job” was to spread the knowledge of the LORD God (Adonai) to the nations (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Instead, Israel was proud, exclusive, and unapproachable, even hostile. Jesus was reminding them of their original purpose. There is one more implication to the phrase, “thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.” In 70 A.D. the Israelites were “thrown out” of Jerusalem and “trampled underfoot” by the Roman soldiers. A portend?
“You are the light of the world” is another reference to Israel’s original purpose. Jerusalem is located on the side of Mount Zion (formerly known as Mount Moriah, the same mountain on which Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac in Genesis 22, and on which David bought the threshing floor from Araunah [2 Samuel 24:15-25]; ultimately, the temple was built there [ 2 Chronicles 3:1]). Everyone went “up” to Jerusalem. Again, it was a reminder that Jerusalem was placed on a hill (the side of the mountain) in order to be a light to the nations.
In this passage, Jesus is directing the people back to the nation’s original purpose, which was to be a light to the Gentiles. Where have we heard that phrase before? Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47; Acts 26:23; also, Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:32. Jesus is that Light. He even called Himself the light of the world in John 8:12. Jesus was always about reaching the Gentiles and He wanted to use Israel to do it. Did He accomplish His goal? Indeed! The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) and the sending of Saul/Paul to the Gentiles in Acts 9:15 are evidence of His success. We are part of that plan, as well. Paul said, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky [universe-to the world] 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life” Philippians 2:14-16. In fact, the quote that Paul makes in that verse is from the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, specifically verse 5, and redirects it to encompass Christ’s goal of reaching this “warped and crooked generation.” Wow!
Tomorrow, we will finally get to The Fulfillment of the Law.
Abba, You are amazing! And Your Word is amazing! You truly have given us everything we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). May we continue to study and ponder, discuss and share the truths You show us. Amen.