Curse you, Trader Joe’s. You affordable, semi-sustainable treasure trove of goodness. While I love that you distract my children by having them search for a green monkey in hopes of candy, I have a beef with you. Better said, my waistline has a beef with you. You have the most amazing gift of paring salty and sweet, and you tease me by displaying these deadly treats by your fast-moving aisles. If I ever feel disciplined and strong, I need only go into your store to watch my good intentions melt before me as my basket fills with unmentionable delights.
Seriously though, the holiday treats at Trader Joe’s have gotten my mouth and mind stuck on the combination of salty and sweet. Two verses that have long-perplexed me come to mind when I hear salty and sweet.
“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 under foot by men.” Jesus in Matthew 5:13.
I remember hearing this in church growing up and wondering what in the world that meant. Maybe because I know nothing about pickling or preserving meat with salt like the pioneers did or maybe because I don’t understand how salt can get less salty, none of the explanations I had ever read fully satisfied my confusion and curiosity. But after reading a report by someone who had actually spent time in the Middle East hundreds of years ago, I came across this helpful explanation that was a game-changer for me.
Supposedly, salt can be found in veins or layers in rocks in this part of the world. So long as the salt remains on the rock, in the vein, it retains its flavor and strength. However, according to good old Maundrell, that helpful chap, “I broke a piece of it, of which that part was exposed to the rain, sun and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, yet it had perfectly lost its savor. The inner part, which was connected to the rock, retained its savor, as I found by proof.” It would not be uncommon, then, for the audience to whom Jesus was speaking, to have had a clear image of what this meant.
I lose my saltiness and savor when I am disconnected from the Rock, and the Bible is so clear that the Rock is God alone. When I am hidden in Christ, vitally connected to the Divine life of God like a branch to a stem, I have things to offer the world. But as I know all too well, when I try to get out and do things on my own strength in my own way, I have nothing to offer.
And now to sweet.
“But I would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the Rock I would satisfy you.” Asaph in Psalm 81:16.
Another beautifully written but practically perplexing image that has befuddled me for so long. Honey from a comb I get. Honey from a hive I get. Honey from a cute little plastic bear I also understand. But honey from a rock? What’s a girl to do with that?
Yet another helpful old-school world-traveler helped untie the knot for me. According to Barnes, “Palestine abounded with bees and honey was a favorite article of food. Much of that which was obtained was wild honey, deposited by the bees in hollows of trees, and as it would seem in the caverns of the rocks. Much of it was gathered from rocky regions, and this was regarded as the most delicate and valuable.” Game-changer. In light of this, this quizzical verse takes on a whole new meaning.
Here, it is as if God is saying to His beloved people, “I have so much good to give you, so much sweet nourishment to satisfy you with, if only you would listen and come to me, the Rock in which the honey is found and hidden.” As we come to God hungry and hoping, disappointed and needing nourishment, He promises that there is ample, precious honey for us, though sometimes it is hidden a bit below the surface, deeper in the crags.
I want to be as delectable and sweet as those Trader Joe’s treats that line the aisle heads. But the only place I can get this perfect combination is being more and more thoroughly attached to, dependent on, hidden in the Rock.