Feet of Clay
Temple Terrace, Florida
From time immemorial man has built towers and images, great nations and cities, only to see them totter and fall when struck by the stone cut out without hands. Every image and idol created by man has its feet of clay, because being of man it is of the earth, earthy. It has within itself the seeds of decay and destruction.
The Image of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream (Dan. 2)
Familiar to us from childhood is the story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great image with its head of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, and its legs of iron and its feet of iron and clay, mixed. In the dream the king saw a stone cut out without hands that smote the feet of the image, broke it to pieces, and ground it to powder; the powder was scattered as the chaff of the summer threshing floor. Magicians were called in to declare the dream to the king, and its interpretation. This they could not do, so were sentenced to death (vv. 1-13).
Daniel assured the king that there was a God in heaven who could interpret the dream (w. 14-30). At the king's invitation Daniel declared to the king the dream and its meaning. The image represented four great empires, one existing at the time, the Chaldean, and three to follow, the Persian, Macedonian, and the Roman. These would be characterized by one spirit, that of the world, and would fall by the judgment and power of God. In the midst of the ruins of these God would build a kingdom which should never be destroyed (vv. 31-45).
Besides the lesson of the promise of the indestructible kingdom, there is also to us this added lesson: Every creation of man, human in its nature, has its feet of clay; and every idol we create brings disaster to its worshipper (Rom. 1:18-27).
Images of Today
National Powers. The great powers of Nebuchadnezzar's dream fell; and so have all the powers that have followed. In the days of Ahaz, Judah sought to make a covenant with Tiglath-pileser, and later with Egypt. In this arrangement the people should find refuge, but the power he thought thus to create came to naught (Isa. 28:14-19). His image had its feet of clay.
In our own day we see the vision of an image great and mighty, a nation built by sweat, blood and tears, but sustained by the might of military power in atomic weapons, an artificial economy, and a soft and effeminate life. How quickly can it totter and fall! as did Rome, the power of John's day (Rev. 18 :8 ), so may one today. Like others, it stands on feet of clay awaiting the impact of the stone of divine judgment which will bring it to naught.
Wealth. Men labor for a lifetime to accumulate wealth, or to build great economic empires. There is nothing wrong with this within itself. It is wrong when the building is at the price of the blood of others, or when prompted by covetousness, or when the wealth is misused or becomes the object of one's trust. When any one of these is the case, "the peoples labor for the fire" (Heb. 2:13) for the judgment of the Lord of Sabbaoth (James 5:1-6.) When wealth becomes the idol of a man's heart, it has its feet of clay, and eventually must crash.
Men. All of us are prone to have within us a streak of hero-worship; there is some man to whom we look as an ideal. It is human to admire the greatness and leadership of others. But it should be remembered always that every man has his feet of clay. Even the apostle Peter at Antioch yielded to the impulse of the flesh and had to be reproved by a fellow apostle (Gal. 2:11-13). As a man, his feet were of clay.
Men of our own generation have demonstrated the principle. Alexander Campbell, the idol of many, and in years gone by of my own self also, who led in the return to the good way of the old paths, before his death proved himself to have feet of clay. When he gave his endorsement to the establishing of the missionary society he gave endorsement to that which led away from the very reformation he had given so much to establish. Even the great J. W. McGarvey, who wrote so vigorously in defense of the inspiration of the Scriptures, who opposed the introduction of instrumental music, could never bring himself to oppose the missionary society.
Likewise in our own day, men in whom all had placed the utmost confidence, under the pressure of popularity and the spirit of the times, have proved themselves idols with feet of clay. There is only one in whom we may trust implicitly: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Human institutions. Men establish papers, they build schools, and give impetus to movements for the evangelizing of the world. All are worthy and noble works within themselves. They grow, become powerful, and exert great influence. To these some begin to look, as others look to individuals, until sight of the Christ is lost. However much these may contribute to a good cause, it should be remembered that being human, each has its feet of clay. When it grows to the point of becoming an idol, the stone cut out without hands must strike, and when it does, the crash comes.
To these could be added denominations, human philosophies, and human wisdom. As these become sufficiently great and popular, men seek to find in them refuge for the soul. But from their birth they have feet of clay, and eventually must receive the impact of divine truth that will bring them crashing to earth.
It is only in the kingdom of God, that which grew into a great mountain and filled the earth, that man can find refuge. Its foundation is not of clay, but divinity itself. It alone shall never be shaken. As we behold the great images constructed by man, let it be remembered that their weakness is in their foundation: they have their feet of clay.
Truth Magazine VII: 5, pp. 4-5