As long as I can remember I have had a fascination with metal working. As a young boy it was fun to straighten nails with a hammer and block of steel. That block of steel was my first anvil. I had it for many years, even into my adult years. My memories are filled with various projects made from coat hangers, pipes, and whatever other scrap metal that inspired me. Some of my “inventions” were less than useable for the intended purpose but other ideas worked well. In High School shop I learned the basics of welding and that opened up new opportunities. The skills I learned in my youth have enabled me to provide for myself and family. It bothers me that High School no longer offers shop classes. It has become a priority in American school systems to concentrate strictly on test scores and college prep.
Skilled tradesman are at the root of technology and innovation. Several modern day trades have derived from blacksmiths such as tool and die makers, welders, iron workers, and machinists to name a few. In American history the village blacksmith had a respected place in the community. Often the blacksmith would serve on school boards because of their knowledge of the scholastic skills needed for students to become productive members of society. A journeyman blacksmith would have been well trained in the skills of metal working along with business skills such as accounting, employee management, and customer care. A famous axiom is “by hammer and hand all art does stand.” This quote from the 17th century is in reference to the blacksmith, known for working the black metal which is iron.
For a hobby job I worked as a traditional blacksmith for a few years at a living history farm. My job was to educate through demonstrations some of the basic skills used by historical blacksmiths. Along with demonstrations I would teach some of the history of how the smiths were a vital part of a society’s well-being. It was while studying the history of the blacksmith I encountered 1 Samuel 13:19-21 (NKJV) 19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” 20 But all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle; 21 and the charge for a sharpening was a pim for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads.
In this passage the Israelites had been conquered by the Philistines as a punishment from God. Although the Israelites were God’s chosen people they turned away from Him and no longer honored Him. The Philistines did not know God but they possessed exceptional knowledge of metallurgy and iron working. In addition they had access to large quantities of iron ore. It was their knowledge of metal working that allowed the Philistines, a relatively small number of people, to conquer a larger group of people. As a way to prevent the Hebrews from being self-sufficient and possibly rise up against their captors they were not allowed to learn or practice iron working skills. In order for the Israelites to acquire and maintain the tools needed for basic provisions they had to go to the Philistines and pay them a non-negotiable price. Throughout history people have been held in bondage by not being permitted basic education or the opportunity to learn a marketable skill. This is not the same as those who choose to not apply themselves to studies or training that are offered.
My primary income is from my occupation in the trades. It is common to hear workers lament about the hard physical work and say things like “it would be better if I had an education and not have to work with my hands.” There is great value to higher education. Society benefits from accountants, doctors, teachers, and such. Often it is forgotten that a skilled trade is a form of higher education. Can you imagine living in a nation without carpenters, plumbers, welders, or electricians? Our modern day transportation systems would not exist without those who are called to be mechanics. Trains, trucks, and planes are useless without someone skilled in operating them. God has given each of us our own unique abilities. Each person should be thankful for the skills God has allowed them. A nation that forgets to give God the honor that is due Him may be in danger of being handed over to a government that does not know Him. A nation without skilled laborers are subject to whatever governing entity is in control as their only source for basic provisions.
Have you considered your occupation as bringing value to the community? Have you thought about the education process that has enabled you to perform the required tasks of your daily labor? Have you taken the time to thank God for your talents and abilities? God blesses the ones who use their skills to honor Him. Whatever your occupation may be give God the honor and live in a manner worthy of respect. Pray that you may never live in a nation without a blacksmith.
Rev. Burt Schwab