The Recovering of the Lord's Testimony in Fullness
Everything Permeated by Life
Now, there is a good deal of difference between what is commonly called life and what God means by life, and that is why I read those fragments about salt. This life of which we are speaking has in it an element. I only pass from one language to another when I change from using the word 'life' to using the word 'vitality.' It is the same word in two different languages, but it is useful here. This life has a vital element in it. There is something here that really has got a sting in it. We sometimes speak of things having a 'kick' in them. There is something there, a positive element which, if we touch it, makes us realize we are touching something mysterious, something vital. If that touches a situation, it registers; the situation knows that it has been touched by something. It is this element that is represented by salt.
Now, salt is a very interesting thing in the Bible. You notice we quoted from Ezra. Ezra, of course, precedes Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah are working together to the same end. They are all part of the whole. Ezra had to do mainly with the beautifying of the temple after it had been rebuilt, and with certain reforms, and with the recovery of the Word of God. But when God acted sovereignly - according to the first words of the Book of Ezra, "that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom" and gave liberty and every provision and facility to those who voluntarily chose to go back to Jerusalem, not by law or constraint, but of a willing heart - in all this marvelous provision that the king made, there was this added, this strange thing. 'Give them this and that in abundance, silver and gold and all the other things;: and then this ' - "and salt without prescribing how much" (Ezra 7:22). Limitless salt!
What was that for? Well, you see, salt is a synonym for life; even outside of the Jewish or Hebrew economy, salt was recognized almost universally as the symbol of life. In some realms they made a covenant in blood, by shedding one another's blood and then mingling it. That was a covenant in blood between two people or two communities. In other realms they took salt and mingled it, making a covenant in salt; but the two things meant the same thing. Blood and salt meant life. Without salt no sacrifice was ever regarded by God as acceptable. That meant, in the thought of those times, that God would never accept a dead sacrifice. Every sacrifice offered to God must be a living one. Yes, the animal was slain, and to all intents and purposes it was dead, but salt contradicted death, denied that it was dead, gave it that something, that vital element, that made it a living sacrifice. The Lord Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13), and Paul said, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1). "Salted with salt" was a phrase of the Lord Jesus (Mark 9:49).
"Salt without prescribing how much." This was in the recovery testimony of Nehemiah. That is, life more abundant; abundant life. That is the testimony that the Lord is seeking, this vital element. "Ye are the salt of the earth." In other words, you are the very life in this dead world. With all the death that is here - and everything as far as God is concerned is in death: only Christians know it, but they do know if: if we are really the Lord's, we know how dead this world is, it is death all around - the Lord says; 'In the midst of all that, you are the life, you are very life, of this death-encompassed world; you are the life of the world, you are the salt of the earth.' "Be salted with salt." "Have salt in your selves." (Mark 9:49, 50). 'Be alive'; to change the language again, 'be vital.'
Such is the testimony to be recovered - something, a mysterious something, that is not in the mineral: for there can be the mineral that has the show, the appearance, of the real stuff, but it has lost its vital quality. "If the salt have lost its savor." You can have all the pretense, all the profession, all the outward appearance, but something has gone, and that missing something says the testimony that should be within is not there. To recover that something is what the Lord is after: not an outward framework, not so much material with a semblance - it was the charge laid at the door of a church in the Book of Revelation, that they 'had a name to live but were dead' (Revelation 3:1) - not that, but this something, this mysterious something, about the Lord's people which comes from God Himself and which speaks of the presence of God within them.
(continued with - "An Old Testament Illustration")