Turning Chalk into Spiritual Tools
School Leader Bible Study
Turning Your Chalk into Swords
Week of August 18, 2019 by Tom Deighan
The prophet Joel would make any creative writing teacher proud. No other Old Testament author packs more vivid imagery into three short chapters. He brings us chewing locusts and fangs of a lion. Warriors running along walls. Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. Multitudes in the Valley of Decision! I can see and hear and smell The Book of Joel, grasping complex concepts through vivid metaphors. Joel 3:10 contains such an illustration:
“Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’”
I may like this verse because I was once trained to use a forge, so I can feel the heat and see the sparks. It also stands out for me because it matches passages in Micah and Isaiah almost word-for-word: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Is. 2:4; Micah 4:3) Isaiah and Micah describe times of peace, when they no longer need swords and spears and can fashion them into peaceful and productive tools, but Joel flips the narrative. He foretells of a time when God calls common folk to transform everyday tools into weapons for His service.
Pruning hooks and plowshares are tools that people utilize to provide for their families, the tools of a peaceful farmer. Joel illustrates how God sometimes calls people to use the tools of their trade (and professional skills) in ways they never predicted. This is a powerful concept, that God can use our skills, abilities, and assets in unexpected and unanticipated ways for His divine purposes. In this case, He uses farmers to defend His people, but Scripture is replete with examples of His leveraging seemingly ordinary people’s professional tools for extraordinary purposes. For example, He raised up Bezalel and Aholiab and other craftsmen to build the tabernacle (Exodus 31). He tapped a physician’s methodical training to write a Gospel (Luke). And he used many government officials, including Daniel, Joseph, and Matthew. So how can He turn our educational plowshares into spiritual swords?
Despite the continuing fracturing of our culture, the center of most communities is still the public school, especially in mid-size cities or smaller. Our nation’s treasures spend precious time within your classrooms, buildings, and school buses. You are trusted by parents and children on a daily basis. You affirm and validate more people in the community than any other single profession, for when you touch a community’s children, you touch everyone connected to them. Working in a public school provides you one of the most advantageous platforms to show God’s love in visible and tangible ways.
As a Christian, I sincerely believe that the only answer to our national problems is Jesus Christ, but like many of you, I have struggled for years trying to balance my faith and my profession. The secular public school system has systematically eradicated faith from its halls, yet it is full of Christians called to serve therein. To make matters even more complicated, many Christians have given up on the public school system. A deep chasm often divides the church and public school, and many educators feel stuck in the middle. This is either a terrible impasse . . . or a wonderful opportunity!
Where I once saw irreconcilable differences, I now see infinite potential. Instead of being trapped between two worlds, Christians in public schools may actually be standing in the gap for a nation (Ezekiel 22:30). Just like Esther, you may have been placed in your public school for such a time as this! (Esther 4:14) In an increasingly fractured culture, public education may be the only common ground left – and it is full of believers like you.
Dear leaders, God has not isolated you between opposing camps. Rather, He has strategically positioned you to bridge a gap that no one else can bridge. Ironically, the secular world has attempted to deny God’s access to public schools, yet He occupies every schoolhouse in the nation through you. Likewise, many Christians have pulled away from public schools, but they share pews full of devoted public educators. This sounds like a recipe for nationwide revival, and the Christians in public schools could be the key. Once the faithful in this nation are reconnected to the public school, nothing can stop the grace and love of God from flooding the entire community.
You can’t preach, but you can love supernaturally! Moreover, you are ideally positioned and professionally trained to bring people together – so much better than a pruning hook or plowshare! You have tools and abilities that God can use mightily. Your position provides great access and influence, so pray that God shows you how to turn your “chalk” into spiritual service. You are not weak, but as Joel says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’”
Over the next few weeks, we will explore the opportunities for Christians in public schools to strategically leverage their positions to demonstrate love, grace, and joy to a lonely and isolated generation. Please join me, and please consider sharing this with educators and church leaders as God places them on your heart.
Please share with someone needing encouragement. Visit www.tomdeighan.com to sign up for the weekly devotional. Copyright Tom Deighan