SWORDS AND PLOWSHARES
A VERY long time ago in the eighth century before Christ there stood just outside the walls of old Jerusalem a big smithy. Here Reuben-ben-Israel worked at his forge day in and day out. A very busy and happy man was Reuben, for he put his whole heart into his work; the tools and weapons which he fashioned were well-made and strong and his fame as a master-workman spread far and wide.
The smithy was a popular gathering place. The groups of men who stood within the glow of the great furnace were hunters, who came to buy from Reuben the famous spear-points and arrow-heads which added zest to the rare sport of the chase. Fighting men were there who watched the mighty strokes of Reuben's hammers while he beat out the weapons with which to slaughter the enemies of Judah. Even the great King Uzziah now and again visited the smithy, for keen was his interest in the work done: the forging of shields and spears, helmets and coats of mail for the host of Judah's warriors.
Money flowed freely into Reuben's chest and he gazed with satisfaction again and again at the bright coins which filled it near to overflowing. When he counted his wealth, he never failed to set aside a goodly gift for the Temple and Treasury and always on the appointed days he wended his way to the hill of Zion, there to enter into the Temple courts and worship the great Jehovah.
On one never-to-be-forgotten religious feast-day Reuben found his way to the Temple blocked by a great crowd of people pilgrims who had come up to Jerusalem from every part of the country to offer sacrifices and worship in the Temple. Their faces all set in one direction wore expressions of earnest attention. Curiosity compelled Reuben to join the crowd and he soon perceived the object of their interest.
A young man of noble bearing and commanding speech was addressing them it was no other than the youthful Isaiah, who, from his early manhood, was recognized by every dweller in Jerusalem to be a prophet of the Lord Jehovah. Consecration to the service of the Holy One of Israel was written upon every feature of this young aristocrat, who was able to stir the hearts of his hearers "as the trees of the forest tremble with the wind." He spoke about a kingdom more worthy of man's loyalty than any human kingdom, even than Judah a kingdom, which he said, "shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it."
"Come," he cried, "to the service of a King whose name shall be called 'Wonderful-Counsellor, Hero-God, Father-Everlasting, Prince-of-Peace.' Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
Often had Reuben listened to the young prophet before this day, but now for the first time his words seemed a living force which gripped him with a power he could not resist. "Verily," said Reuben, "this man is the mouthpiece of Jehovah with a message to my soul. I have vainly endeavored to serve God hitherto by making instruments of warfare and destruction. Never again shall there be forged in my smithy any weapons whereby man wreaks death and sorrow upon his fellow-creatures. From this day forth, I make only the tools of peace, whereby with toil and loving kindness men glorify God. Swords shall be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning-hooks. Thanks be to Jehovah the mighty One of Israel for the words of truth which He has revealed through the noble prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem."