Clay feet, rusty nails, and the Daniels of this world
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For those of us in ministry, the news has been rough lately. It’s difficult to see heroes of the Christian faith fall. I won’t use this post to gossip or slander, but I do think it’s good to remember that all of us who walk this earth do so on clay feet.

The Bible contains story after story of our heroes of the faith. It’s worth noting that the Bible usually tells us about their sins as well. God inspired every word of Scripture, so obviously he wanted us to remember that even kings like David can compromise their faith for a Bathsheba.

The great heroes in God’s eyes

If I could make a list of the people I would most like to meet in heaven, it would contain names like Samuel, Barnabas, Mary Magdalene, Aquila, Joseph, and Daniel. I am a big fan of the people in Scripture whose lives God used to influence those who changed the course of history.

The prophet Daniel was just a young man when King Nebuchadnezzar sent his army into Judah. The people of Judah were unable to withstand the Babylonian army and as a result, Judah was conquered, and the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. God had been speaking through his prophets for many years, using these men of God to warn the people of Judah that his judgment was coming.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, indicated that Daniel came from a royal lineage. He would have been educated in God’s word and taught to walk in obedience to God’s ways. King Nebuchadnezzar had instructed his armies to take those types of young people captive first. It was a good war strategy except the earthly king underestimated the power of the heavenly King.

Daniel’s life is a picture of what it means to walk faithfully with God. His circumstances in life could have caused him to give up on God but instead, Daniel allowed his hardships to strengthen him to depend on his faith. God gifted Daniel to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. 

The Babylonian king had a dream that none of his magicians, sorcerers, or other wise men could interpret. A lot of people were going to lose their lives, and Daniel stepped in to request an audience with the king. Daniel asked his friends to seek God for the wisdom he would need, and when Daniel stood before Nebuchadnezzar, he was able to tell him what his dream was about. 

Daniel was careful to tell the king, “But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind” (Daniel 2:30).

A great hero in God’s eyes is the person who is careful and faithful to understand that human greatness is measured by a person’s ability to humble themselves and give God all the glory. 

Kings and kingdoms with clay feet

Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream truthfully even though his words might have enraged the king. There were several times in Scripture when Daniel risked his life in order to honor his God. Daniel told the great and powerful earthly king that his mighty kingdom would eventually fall because a sharp rock, not made by human hands, would crush the clay feet his kingdom was constructed upon. (Daniel 2:31–45).

Every earthly kingdom is built upon clay feet. The same is true for every earthly king. The book of Revelation promises that one day there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Nothing in this world is permanent. That is the theme of world history since the beginning. Every kingdom on earth has been constructed upon clay feet.

The Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonians. The Babylonians were conquered by the Persians. The Persians were conquered by the Romans. The Romans were conquered by the Germans, and on and on, history has progressed. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that there is only one King without clay feet.

How do we protect our souls from our clay feet?

Jesus died on the cross because of our clay feet. Paul made sure the body of Christ would know that everyone sins and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We shouldn’t be surprised when people fall, even great Christians. But usually we are surprised, disappointed, and saddened by the mistakes of our earthly heroes. Somehow we don’t expect them to have clay feet like the rest of us.

Maybe we should consider our earthly kings like Daniel taught us. He honored the man’s position rather than the person. Daniel worked to preserve his faith, not his future. Daniel humbled himself and as a result, King Nebuchadnezzar recognized the power of Daniel’s God and King. Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:47–48).

We can protect our souls from our clay feet when we carefully refuse to allow earthly kings to overshadow our faith in the only King who is perfect.

Watch out for rusty nails.

Jim and I were out walking when we passed a yard that was a huge mess! We walk by that yard every day and had never seen it look anything but beautiful and well-kept. The home was getting a new roof. Gone were the beautiful red tiles that had been there for years and years. 

A neighbor told us what happened. Those clay shingles were supposed to withstand the hail, the wind, and the other factors of our Texas weather. That was supposed to be a roof that would last for a lifetime. Why was it being replaced with regular shingles now?

The beautiful, expensive, clay tile shingles had been installed with the wrong nails. The shingles grew weak because over time, the nails had rusted and gradually, the rust had destroyed the clay. I told our neighbor that the roof was a parable for us today.

We know that every king and kingdom on earth stands upon clay feet. The sins of this world are like those rusty nails that break down even the strongest men and the strongest nations. Sin has always been around, and world history is simply an illustration of God’s consistency. 

Nations rise and fall and so do their leaders. God will always warn, and most people will refuse to listen because we are attracted to the gleaming gold and bronze, and ignore the clay foundation.

Will you be a Daniel to the kings of this world? 

Will you glorify God as your only King? Our nation and our culture need to hear what God wants to say about our clay feet. Daniel and his friends prayed for God to speak to the powerful, evil king of Babylon who had taken them captive. They relied on God and trusted him to work out the details.

We all have clay feet. The sins in our life are like the rusty nails that slowly cause us to fail and fall. Yet God has chosen to gift us and use us for his higher purpose—if we will follow Daniel’s example.

God needs some heroes like Daniel who will humbly live with the high priority of giving God all the glory. As we get ready to celebrate our country, our history, and eventually vote for an earthly king, let’s remember that everything and everyone we celebrate and honor exist on a clay foundation. The rust is real and the clay will always be susceptible to decay. Our job is to serve like Daniel and help others know the only King who will stand forever.