Feet of clay ∙
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. – 1 Kings 19:3
14 I cannot carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!
15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!
The term “feet of clay” is an idiom that originated in the mid-1700s, which means it is a phrase or expression whose figurative meaning cannot be deduced from its literal definition.
It describes a hidden flaw, negative characteristic, or attribute that lurks beneath the surface, hidden in an otherwise admirable person. This flaw is often undetected, but it has the potential to be destructive. The term is typically applied to individuals who are well thought of, greatly esteemed, seemingly a paragon of virtue, heroes. But they have a hidden weakness or shortcoming that undermines their perceived flawlessness. They have feet of clay.
The phrase comes from the book of Daniel (Daniel 2:31-32). In his dream, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon envisioned a colossal statue of a man with a head made of gold, arms and chest of silver, a torso and thighs of brass, and legs of iron. This dream was interpreted by Daniel. The statue’s feet were made of a combination of iron and potter’s clay rather than being entirely composed of metal, rendering them extremely vulnerable. This made the feet the statue’s weakest point.
All children of the King have feet of clay. Some disguise the fact better than others. We should not expect too much from our heroes of the faith, certainly not perfection. Each one of the characters in the Bible had lapses in judgment or worse with the singular exception of Daniel (Daniel 6:4).
When Elijah the prophet was targeted for death by Jezebel, rather than stand up to her, he ran away (1 Kings 19:1-8). “The Bible typically exposes the weakness of a man of God, for Elijah exhibited symptoms of manic depression, wishing for death, together with loss of appetite, an inability to manage, and with excessive self-pity. He was unmoved by visitors, even by a visit from God and visions, but was restored when given a new and demanding task to fulfill” (Donald J. Wiseman).
1 Kings 19:2-3
2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.
Threatening Elijah openly is not a very effective way of actually hunting him down and dispatching him. Warning somebody that you are looking for them allows them an opportunity to escape. No doubt Jezebel’s plan for Elijah was to terminate with extreme prejudice. But perhaps more importantly, she was furious that he had made a mockery of the prophets of Baal, her god’s prophets. She wanted revenge on Elijah’s God as well. She wanted the God of Elijah mocked and publicly humiliated.
Elijah was a prophet chosen by the Father, and he was fiercely loyal to Him. He was God’s prophet. Jezebel, on the other hand, aimed to undermine the authority of Elijah’s God. She made a strategic move by threatening Elijah, which ultimately led him to flee. Unfortunately, this played right into Jezebel’s hands, and people began to mock the power of Elijah’s God, questioning why he would flee if his God was truly omnipotent. Elijah’s actions, from a human standpoint, were unacceptable. He had an opportunity to stand firm in his beliefs, this “divinely trained prophet was to prove a notable failure” (Patterson and Austel).
REFLECT & PRAY
“So sinful is the human heart that it’s prone to forget God’s blessings, ignore God’s promises, and find fault with God’s providence” (Wiersbe).
Father how many times have I deserved to be squashed like a bug? Yet Your gentle mercy and lovingkindness constrain You. You are always ready to provide the needed balm of refreshment and change as needed.
Even mighty Moses had feet of clay. There were times in his life when things just got to him, and he felt that just could not take it anymore. He was greatly empowered and set apart from all other prophets that would ever come after him. He alone would have the privilege of not merely speaking face-to-face with the Father but also mouth-to-mouth (Numbers 12:8).
Yet at the same time, he handled his privileges and responsibilities well.
Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.
He finds himself in a serious quandary. Among the people of Israel, who themselves were given to complaining, was a mixed multitude, a foreign rabble who had left Egypt with them. These whiners are given to almost continuous moaning and complaining. They never seem to be satisfied with any provision from the Father. They simply got tired of the miraculous, monotonous manna He provided from heaven.
4 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed.
5 “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.”
On the surface, it appeared that their desire for a more varied diet was a reasonable request. However, their true motive was to experience the pleasures of Egypt once again. It is seemingly incongruous that they were longing for the good old days of Egyptian bondage. They selectively remembered only the enjoyable aspects while blocking out the harsh realities and cruelty they endured. Selective memory is a curious phenomenon that permits us to rationalize our actions based on what we choose to remember.
The people were becoming riotous, and the Father’s patience with them was running out. Moses found himself caught in the middle. Moses was frustrated and totally lost it. Could it be that he experienced a nervous breakdown? He failed to look to the Father. Now he was the one complaining.
11 And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?”
12 “Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors?”
13 “Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’”
14 “I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!”
15 “If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
Can you hear the sound of a bug being squashed?
Rather than the Father treating Moses harshly, He recognized that the real problem was that Moses was overworked, exhausted, and needed a break. So He lightened his load and redistributed leadership responsibilities. Moses would no longer have to carry the burden of the people alone (Numbers 11:17). He gets a well-deserved vacation.
All children of the King should give thanks to the Father for His loyal love, and the amazing things, He has done for them (Psalms 107:31).
© Dr. H 2023