Numbers 18, The Covenant of Salt

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Barry and Helen Setterfield, Mar 12, 2003.

  1. Barry and Helen Setterfield

    Barry and Helen Setterfield
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    God has been building up something that was going unrecognized by the Israelites at this time. He was gradually building up a picture of the Messiah – the Savior they would be waiting for in later years.

    As Abraham was called out of his home to wander in the area his descendents would later claim, so Jesus left His place in heaven and came to earth, coming to a place His people would later claim (during the Millennium).

    From Abraham came a nation which would include priests commissioned by the Lord. And from the Lord would come a Church that would be built up into a nation of priests (1 Peter 2:9).

    As Abraham desired a wife for his son out of his own people, so Christ tells us by Paul not to be harnessed to unbelievers – we are to marry within the family of God.

    Then as Moses was a prince, Christ is the King.

    As Moses led the people out of Egypt, so Jesus rescues us from sin.

    As Moses led a difficult people through the wilderness, giving them the words from God, so Christ leads a difficult church through the world, giving us God Himself.

    And then there begins to be a further addition to the picture: the creation of the priesthood, with special attention given to the High Priest, Aaron, and his sons. They were to intercede for the Israelites and through the sacrifices make atonement for them.

    Christ intercedes for us, and through the sacrifice of Himself, has made atonement for us.

    Christ – the Messiah to come – obedient; a founder of a special people, a special priesthood; Savior of a called out people; the King; our God; the High Priest and the Holy Sacrifice of Atonement.

    And now, in chapter 18 of Numbers, another layer gets added to this building picture.

    In verses 1-7, we learn of a heavy responsibility laid on the shoulders of Aaron and his sons. The Lord says to them,

    You, and your sons and your father’s family are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood. Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the Tent of the Testimony. They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the Tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, OR BOTH THEY AND YOU WILL DIE. (emphasis ours).

    The high priest is to bear the responsibility of keeping the Tabernacle holy and free from desecration on pain of his own death.

    And Christ took the responsibility for our sins against God Himself and died because of them.

    So the picture emerges that He was not only the Holy Sacrifice, but the Accountable Sacrifice – this is the meaning of the doctrine that our sins were laid on Him.

    Only Aaron and his sons were allowed to be priests serving at the altar and in the Holy of Holies. Anyone else was to be put to death who came near. Christ is forming of us a nation of priests as His brothers and adopted sons of God. We will be allowed to serve; we do serve. Through Christ, we also serve at the altar and behind the curtain. We have that access because of Christ and because of our adoption or spiritual rebirth, making us part of the family of the true High Priest. That we can serve with Christ, and He through us, is a high and holy privilege.

    The rest of Numbers 18 concerns the various shares of the offerings which were to go to the priests and their families. Always the best went to the Lord and the Lord gave it to Aaron and his sons.

    Always the best goes to Christ, and He gives it to us:

    I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you…

    Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete…I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

    (Jesus, talking to His disciples the night before the Crucifixion, as recorded in John 16)

    So, now, what is the Covenant of Salt referred to in this chapter in Numbers? We read in verse 19, the following:

    Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.

    There is a key to the use of the salt idiom here that is not recognized by most people. The key is in the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to us as the salt of the earth. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus asks, ”But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”

    That phrase “lose saltiness” is from the word “moraino.” That word is used only four times in the New Testament. But only twice, in Matthew and Luke, is it translated as “lose saltiness.” In Romans 1:22, the word is translated “fools”. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became FOOLS and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    The second time ‘moraino’ is used is in 1 Corinthians 1:20: Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God MADE FOOLISH the wisdom of the world?

    Salt, in other words, was a Hebrew idiom for wisdom. The wisdom of this world was pictured as the salty wastes – and thus the startling picture of Lot’s wife, turning and longing for life in Sodom – in the world – becoming a pillar of salt: the death involved in the wisdom of the world. But God’s wisdom is also salt.

    One more link connects this with the Covenant of Salt. Go back to 1 Corinthians. Chapter 1, verse 24, which has in it the phrase, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    The Covenant of Salt, if it was not understood as such then, can be seen now as the Covenant of Christ, the Wisdom of God. It was a picture – as most things in the Old Testament are (but yes, they are really historically true) – of our relationship to God. It is a Covenant relationship through Christ. We are being raised up as a nation of priests, and it will please God to give the best of everything to us, both as His priests and as His children.

    It is an incredible thing to think about, and the picture is being built up slowly through the history of the Israelites.
     

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