An Agreement in Salt
Tuesday - June 16th
Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: 2 Chronicles 13:1-20
Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 6:19-24
"Don't you know that the Lord, the God of Israel,
has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?"
2 Chronicles 13:5
The nation of the twelve tribes of Jacob had been united under Kings Saul, David, and Solomon. But, King Solomon's son, Rehoboam, foolishly brought about the splitting of the kingdom into two kingdoms. Ten tribes to the north formed the Kingdom of Israel, and two tribes to the south formed the southern Kingdom of Judah (with Jerusalem as its capital).
The leader of the rebellion against Rehoboam had been Jeroboam. He became the first king of the northern kingdom after the nation divided into two. After Rehoboam's death, his son Abijah (Solomon's grandson) became the King of the southern nation with his palace in Jerusalem. According to 2 Chronicles chapter 13, Jeroboam sensed Abijah's weakness and prepared an attack against the southern kingdom. He brought twice as many soldiers to the battlefront as Abijah. It seemed Judah and its new king would be destroyed.
Abijah challenges Jeroboam. He declares that all of the tribes are God's people of Israel. He talks about how he is the rightful King of all 12 tribes because he is the great-grandson of King David. He declares in 2 Chronicles 13:5, "Don't you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?" Jeroboam laughs at Abijah. He uses this interaction between the two kings at the line between their two armies to distract Abijah. Jeroboam sends half of his army (which remember is twice the size of Abijah's army) around to the other side - behind Abijah and his army.
When Abijah and the army of Judah realize what has happened, the battle ensues. Even though Abijah only has one soldier for every two soldiers fighting for Jeroboam, Abijah and Judah win the battle. The passage says, "The people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors" (v.18). Abijah reminded both nations that day of the covenant God had made decades earlier with his great-grandfather, King David. Notice that he said in verse five that the kingship of all twelve tribes had been given to David and his descendants by God with a"covenant of salt." It seems odd that God's promise to David and his descendants was sealed permanently with salt. Salt, really?
What is a covenant of salt? The ancient world used salt as part of an exchange to seal an agreement between parties making a covenant or agreement together. Salt was used mostly as a preservative for foods that would be perishable otherwise. So ancient cultures saw salt as a symbol of preservation and faithfulness. They used it in different ways to signify the commitment and preservation of the agreement completing it as a salt covenant.
One practice was for each party to bring a container of a little over a pound of salt. The two parties would seal the deal by pouring all of their salt crystals into a container together. That mixed their salt into one unit. To break the covenant, the side that broke it would have to sort out the crystals of salt so that each party had every piece of salt they contributed to the agreement. That task would be impossible, so a salt covenant was a binding, unbreakable contract. Today, many Christian weddings use a covenant of salt ceremony rather than the unity candle ceremony. The bride and groom each bring a container of salt. During the wedding, they pour their salt together. To break the covenant they would have to sort out whose salt was whose!
That was the kind of agreement God made when He initiated the promise to David regarding his kingship through his descendants. Abijah had warned Jeroboam that he was dancing dangerously with God's salt covenant with King David. In his humiliating defeat, Jeroboam paid the price for what he did.
When Jesus in Matthew 5:13 told His followers, "You are the salt of the earth," those listening would naturally think of salt as a preservative that made a difference. They may have thought of the faithfulness attached to salt used in various agreements between God's people. Salt spoke of something consistent, faithful, something on which one can count when things get complicated.
How about you? When others think of you, do they think of someone dependable, someone always there? Do they recognize your consistent life and your faithful care? To be salt of the earth means to be there for people. To be ready to help them. To be a person who keeps your word to them. To be a person who shows up when no one else does. Are you that kind of "salt of the earth?"
Reach out to someone struggling in life right now. Think of someone who needs a faithful friend. Text or call them with a word of encouragement. Determine now to be faithfully there for them in any way you possibly can be there. Be the "salt of the earth" for them.
The followers of Jesus are faithful, present, ready to help. They are the salt of the earth.