Feet of clay

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It’s the biblical equivalent of the Achilles’ heel.  When a leader has a flaw that makes him vulnerable he has “feet of clay.”

The phrase orginates in the book of Daniel which, like Ezekiel, is set in the Babylonian captivity.  Daniel, along with others, is carried away to Babylon and then hand-picked to serve in their civil service.  Just like Joseph, Daniel rises through the ranks of this foreign land through the wisdom of the Spirit.  And again, like Joseph, he gains prominence through the interpretation of a dream.

King Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a giant statue that is destroyed by a rock:

32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.  (Daniel 2:32-35)

Daniel gives the interpretation: the various  body parts are kingdoms.  The head of gold is Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.  Following his empire will be three other kingdoms.  The fourth won’t so much have feet of clay.  The fourth kingdom is represented by feet of clay mixed with iron.

Iron and clay conveys the sense that this kingdom will be strong but brittle.  And its demise will come at the hands of a “stone” which must have looked so small and inconsequential compared to such towering might.  Yet the stone strikes a blow at this fourth kingdom, fells it and takes over the world.  (Daniel 7 also picks up this theme of the four kingdoms and their destruction by the Rock – the Son of Man.)

And so “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son,” the Rock (Galatians 4:4).  He grew up among the  kingdom of iron and clay.  And He looked to have no chance whatsoever.  He was crushed under foot by the Romans.  And yet, within three hundred years the empire that crucified Him confessed Him Lord and His kingdom continues to fill the earth.

Look at the mightiest empires of today.  Consider the most unquestioned ideas in the popular imagination.  Think of the most immovable powers opposed to the gospel of Jesus.  They don’t just have feet of clay.  They are feet of clay.  And they must topple as every enemy will be brought under Christ’s feet.  (Psalm 110:1)

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