Here’s a description of the church I expect you’ve never thought about. In Isaiah 60:13, God calls the church “the place of my feet”.
Now to understand this picture, we need to think about God’s “feet”. God uses different body parts to talk about himself in the Bible – his eyes (Psalm 34:15), ears (Psalm 34:15), fingers (Ps 8:3), hands (Acts 4:28), arms (Isa 52:10) and face (Num 6:25). These body parts aren’t meant to be taken literally, but they reveal different aspects of God’s character to us. Well, why does God want us to think about his “feet”? Whenever God refers to his “feet”, he’s getting us to think about his size. After all, if we’re dealing with God’s feet, we’re dealing with the smallest, lowest part of him. For example, in Isa 66:1, God says: “heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool”. His point is that he’s much bigger than we tend to think. When we go to the shoe shop, we get our feet measured; well, what’s God’s shoe size?! If the earth is his footstool, we need to adjust how we’re measuring God, and scale things up a lot! God talks about his “feet” to show us that all our measurements of him are way off.
But while the whole earth is God’s footstool, the good news of the Bible is that God drops his feet down in a particular place – “the place of my feet” (Isa 60:13), “the place of the soles of my feet” (Ezekiel 43:7). This picture of the church as “the place of God’s feet” is telling us two things at the same time:
i) Firstly, there is real contact and connection between our big God and little us. His feet do touch down on earth. Where is that? Well, it’s at “the place of his feet”, the church. That’s where we “find” him. It’s where his word is; it’s where the good news of his Son is revealed. This is why showing up at church, and prioritising the gathering of God’s people is important. Yes, the whole earth is God’s footstool – you can connect to God anywhere through Christ. But there is a particular spot he comes close. That spot is the place of worship, where his word is opened – “Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool” (Psalm 132:7). I wonder if this is how we’re thinking as we’re getting ready for church, or deciding whether to come or not? There’s a spot in Ilford where God puts his feet. Is that the place we’re eager to get our friends and neighbours to?
ii) But secondly, at church, all we get is God’s “feet”. God is truly present at church, but in such a way that he’s always infinitely higher than anything we hear or learn. God isn’t boxed in at church. This means when we turn up at the “place of God’s feet”, we’ve still got work to do. Getting yourself to church on Sundays isn’t the goal. Writing sermon notes, or keeping awake during the sermon isn’t the goal. Getting the children to sit still isn’t the goal. Singing loudly, or taking the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table isn’t the goal. These are all just God’s “feet”. God doesn’t want us to stop with his feet. He wants us to climb higher, by faith, and enjoy his eyes, and ears, his fingers, and hands, his arms, and his face. To put it another way: there is always a lot more of God for us to get at a church service than meets the eye.
So, try and remember this biblical picture for the church. Try using it in conversation. I look forward to meeting you this Sunday at “the place of God’s feet”. Let’s “worship at his footstool!” (Psalm 99:5).