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Partly Iron, but Partly Clay
Partly Iron, but Partly Clay
You may recognize the title as being taken from Daniel’s inspired interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in Daniel 2. Particularly, it comes from a description of the Roman Empire that would eventually succeed those of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian. Though this “fourth kingdom” would be “as strong as iron,” it would also be “divided” and “mixed”- possessing both “the toughness of iron” as well as being “brittle” like “clay” since it is pictured as containing a combination of both, cf. Dan.2:39-43. Iron is both tough and strong. Clay can become hard when dried or fired, but remains brittle. Mixing these two compounds together improves neither of them, and in fact, as the text states, “they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not mix with pottery,” v.43.
Despite all of the above, this article is not about past World Empires or metallurgy, but the imagery and information can lead us to some important spiritual considerations…
At least one of the definitions of “holy” is that of being “pure” or “unmixed.” Metaphorically, it means that “holiness” is pure and unmixed with spiritual contaminants like sin and the evil thoughts, emotions, and desires that produce it. Let’s think about these things in a couple of ways.
- Obviously, God is holy/pure/unmixed, 1Pet.1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Such should be our objective, or that for which we strive, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior,” 1Pet.1:15. To be “with” God eternally in heaven, we must first learn to be “like” Him here and now.
- Producing love that is divine in origin and nature from a pure/unmixed “heart” is the goal of inspired revelation and instruction in it, 1Tim.1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The Word of God is given and taught in order that we may learn to love and live like God, in unmixed purity/holiness). Absenting or isolating ourselves from the Word and those who practice and teach it never helps the attainment of this objective.
- To get there, we must rid ourselves of impurities that contaminate and weaken us, 2Tim.2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue after righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.” Simply put, these impurities will not and cannot “mix” with the “purity of devotion to Christ” (cf. 2Cor.11:3), and only serve to weaken and destroy it (cf. 1Cor.6:12-20), as further evidenced by the example of the Roman Empire provided by God through Dan.2:40-43.
God has indeed built and provided a “kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Heb.12:28), but we are all too often citizens weakly comprised of partly iron and partly clay. Let us strive for purity. Let us strive for holiness that we may share God’s holiness both now and forever.