“Before I was born, the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” Is. 49:2-3
I have a friend with the long-lost talent of sword making. I really admire what he can do with a chunk of ugly metal. And while I’ve never actually seen him working at one, I’ve seen the process the metal goes through just in the pictures he’s shown me of his work. I’ve seen some gorgeous swords, and been in awe of how differently the metal looks after it’s been worked over.
I have to admit, not understanding the entire process, I did have to get on youtube to become more familiar with the process, and I was really surprised at the way a sword is made. It turns out, like any great work of art, it takes time. A lot of time. I remember when we were in college, he was asked to produce six swords to be used in Macbeth, and those he made rather quickly. And they were pretty bulky and ugly, compared to the ones he’s really labored over.
The sword begins with a concept: the image in the smithy’s head of what his finished product will look like. He then traces it out on a very rectangular piece of metal. Then he cuts the metal to create a rudimentary blade. Really, just the shape of what will eventually be the blade. After cutting it, He files off some of the rougher edges and prepares the blade for it’s first firing. That’s right, it then goes into the fire.
The first time it’s heated, it’s so that the bevel of the blade can be established. This is done by heating and then beating it, so to speak. Once the blade is hot, it is taken off the fire and struck with a hammer along the edges, flipping the sword over and making sure of equal strikes on each side and equal strikes top to bottom to create a smooth edge on both side. Special care is given to the point, because it is more delicate.
Once the bevel is established, the blade is sanded and shined. It might look good at this point, but the sword is far from finished. It is in danger of breaking until it has been strengthened.
To strengthen the sword, it goes back into the fire, but this time, it is literally buried beneath intense flames and coals. It has to be heated to an unbearable 1800 degrees, during which the structure of the steel itself is changed. Once it’s reached that temp, it is then quenched in oil. Some metals can be quenched in water, but some require oil. At the end of this process, the sword is hardened, so therefore, not easily broken. Sanding and shining follow and the blade looks nice and is hard … still not finished.
The sword blade then goes back into the fire, this time at 800 degrees, in order to be softened. The crystallization that occurred during the hardening phase must be somewhat reversed so that the blade is both strong and flexible, otherwise, the blade will snap. Once it is sufficiently hot, it is quenched again in the oil. And finally, it is ready to be refined and polished through sanding.
Once that is done, the handle can be burned on and the hilt added, both of which most likely also went through a very delicate process of intricate shaping and designing. And then, viola, you have a weapon!
Holy Spirit, allow your truth to come forth in this.
Do you see it, love? The tender hand of the forger at work in you? The way He has worked patiently and carefully to bring you through a process that has refined you for use as His weapon? No doubt, you have been very aware of it: the constant fire, the brief moments drowned in His Spirit that has quenched the pain, and then back into the fire again. The heavy blows that have created your sharpened edges. The intensity of the fire that created a hardness in you, that maybe even hurt your relationships because you were in the middle of something that was literally changing you from the inside out. Have you noticed the lesser flame, softening you again? Are you aware of the Spirit, covering you? Flowing over you and quenching the heat when it seems like you can’t take any more?
Do you know what is happening? Your Maker is creating, love. Your Maker sees something in you no one else sees. He has eyes that see a quality in the metal that you are, a valuable piece of steel that He knows He can refine and use. This process was not to harm you, but to give you a future in His hands! As a weapon of might against the enemy. He conceived the sword you would be before your mother conceived the earthly vessel you are in. And He has cut away, filed down the edges, fired up the forge and gently placed you in it. And you know what? He didn’t walk away, because He can’t leave you there. The temperatures are an exact science. When the bellows blow the coals and the flame gets hotter, He is watching carefully. He is ready to pull you out the moment the work is complete.
While we cringe the moment we feel the heat and recognize the fire is coming again, He is smiling because He knows how much work is left to be done. When the sand paper comes and rubs coarsely in our lives, abrasively scrubbing away the grunge that stuck to the metal, we may hurt, but it is beautifying us. It is rubbing away filth and allowing the shine to come forth. Do not despise these times. Rejoice! Your redemption draweth nigh! While the hardening may literally change who you are because you feel rejection and you understand the word loneliness like you’ve never before, and you have to press in to God lest you literally die of the pain in your heart, be encouraged because at some point, He will soften you again, and your original qualities will bond with this new strength and make you a perfect work. And once you have been softened again, toward everyone including Your Maker, He pulls you out of that fire and pours out His spirit all over you. He holds you delicately while He polishes you once more. Then He burns on the handle, so that you will be steadfastly connected to the part He wields in battle. All the work He does in you is for this very moment: to be placed at His side, brandished at Will and victorious in battle! This is not for naught! This is for His might and the display of His splendor. You are a beautiful weapon in the hands of an Almighty God who will forever conquer! This is glorious!
*Special thanks to the guy on youtube who created the video that gave me most of the information used here, and to my dear friend, who supplied all the finer details!