Can this be?

A friend gave me a book to read. Over the years, I’ve grown to be leery of these “Hey, you gotta read this!” books. In my opinion, never known to be particularly humble, there are many people who grab hold of a part of the truth and then run with it, reaching some outrageous conclusion or another. To do that, they need to ignore the other parts of the same truth which, if you pay attention to those parts, would lead you to a much less outrageous destination. As Florence Littauer once famously said, “Why let the facts ruin a good story?”

And so, when Ken pressed this book into my hand, I resolved to hang on to it for a month or two, and then return it with the lame, but ever-safe, shoulder shrug and, “Sorry, man, I just didn’t have time to get to it.” But something happened. I glanced at the portion he wanted me to read, and the glance led to a turn of the page. And another. And another. Soon, I couldn’t put it down.

The book? The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn, who apparently leads a religious ministry of mainly Jewish origins in New Jersey.

What got me so hooked? The fact that Mr. Cahn pieced together obscure pieces of factually documented history in a way I’ve never seen it done, to stunning effect. He did it by writing a fictional account of someone who had dreams and encountered a prophet of some sort, who kept stringing him along to find these obscure facts. The whole thing has a strong air of mysticism about it. That usually doesn’t bode well for me and a book, because my brain is too easily enticed to tear the shrouds away from mysteries and mystics. It’s too easy to come up with something that sounds plausible, and then build an entire fantasy on that wispy foundation. How many people have proclaimed they know the date of the Lord’s return, only to have that date pass and life continue as before?

But this guy is different. The presentation may be mystical, but his facts aren’t.

Which facts?

For starters, both the 2001 and 2008 stock market crashes happened on Elul the 29th on the Jewish calendar. That happened to be the Hebrew date of Shemitah —  seven years apart. It’s the Lord’s command to have a sabbath year every 7th year. Those happened to fall on 2001 and 2008. A stock market crash doesn’t happen on a single day, but in both instances, the events of those days were pivotal:

  • In 2001, the stock market opened after 6 days, having been closed in the aftermath of 9/11. When it opened, the market instantly collapsed.
  • In 2008, the biggest drop of the Dow (777 points for the mystics out there) happened on 29 Elul.

The author’s premise is the Lord says His nation must wipe away all debts on 29 Elul every 7th year. The nation of Israel, as we know, didn’t keep the sabbath year (Shemitah) command for 490 years, so the Lord took it from them with the 70 year exile in Babylon. The author construes the meltdowns of 2001 and 2008 as a similar involuntary wiping out of debt. In my opinion, that’s a bit of a reach, because by no means was all debt wiped away. Some people we would call innocent got hammered hard, and others whom we could call infidels got off lightly. But the fact that a lot of wealth did get wiped away on the two 29 Elul dates is inescapable.

There’s another problem: the crash before 2001 didn’t happen 7 years prior — it was closer to 10 years. Therefore, the premise that stock market crashes happen only on 29 Elul of Shemitah years (every 7th) doesn’t hold up if you go beyond the two specific cases of 2001 and 2008. For instance, 1929’s market crash didn’t happen in a shemitah year.

So… the facts don’t totally support an unqualified acceptance that the two wipe-outs were as absolute as Israel’s exile to Babylon, but it was close enough to keep me engaged.

Especially when he married a specific (though obscure) scripture and more facts.

The Pivot

The pivot around which the entire story is built is an obscure passage: Isaiah 9:10 and 11. Here’s the passage in broader context (NKJV, underline added):

8 The Lord sent a word against Jacob, And it has fallen on Israel.
9 All the people will know— Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria—
Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”
11 Therefore the Lord shall set up The adversaries of Rezin against him, And spur his enemies on,
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.
For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.
13 For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, Nor do they seek the Lord of hosts.
14 Therefore the Lord will cut off head and tail from Israel, Palm branch and bulrush in one day.

The attitude behind the declaration in verse 10 is defiance. The Lord (as we know) often brings calamity to bring His nation to repentance. In this instance, the accusation of the Lord to the leaders of Israel, through the prophet Isaiah, is that the rulers reacted not with repentance, but defiance, in effect saying to the Lord: “no matter what You bring against us, we can take care of ourselves, and we will.” Dangerous words.

The author then goes back and draws out quotes from American presidents. After 9/11, Pres. Bush says, “We will rebuild!” Those exact three words. And Pres. Obama, upon taking office (and referring to the economic devastation of the Great recession) says, “We will rebuild.” Those three words are buried in the middle of his address, but, when they had to pick a headline to report the address, all the media, from the New York Times to Al Jazeera, as if by some unseen hand, picked the three words from Isaiah 9:10.

Like I said, I’m no mystic, but even I had to raise my eyebrows at that “coincidence.”

History

nyse gwThen the author gets into deep history. George Washington was invested as the first President of the USA on April 20, 1789. There’s a statue of Mr. Washington on the exact spot where he gave his inauguration address, and this photograph shows just how close that is to the present New York Stock Exchange. Are you getting goose bumps yet?

It gets better. See his right hand? Palm down — that was his hand as he put it on the Bible. You can read his inauguration speech here. (God bless the internet.) In it, he states that the guiding light of the new country must be God: “there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness… the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained…”

And then he closes by declaring God to be “the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people… so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the … measures on which the success of this Government must depend.”

The author takes that stand and those words to be almost the same as what Solomon uttered at the dedication of the temple — in other words, a dedication of the new nation to God.

The very first act of Congress under the new President was to walk a few steps to St. Paul’s chapel… to dedicate the new nation to God in prayer.

That’s right: the first official act of the first constituted Congress of America was “Let’s pray.” Regardless of your religious persuasion, that is a fact, well documented. St. Paul’s chapel still is there, right across Church Street from the World Trade Center.

st pauls chapel ny2

Back then, that real estate apparently was part of the St. Paul’s chapel grounds. Therefore, Ground Zero is where the new nation of America was dedicated.

Drawing a mystical connection (or not) between the 9/11 act of terrorism and the prayer of dedication on pretty much the same spot is of course up to you. The author does this with great abandon. He offers up the evidence that the chapel itself was protected from the extensive damage it could have suffered when the towers collapsed, given its incredibly close proximity to the mayhem and destruction. The St. Paul’s Wikipedia site says, “The church survived without even a broken window. Church history declares it was spared by a miracle sycamore on the northwest corner of the property that was hit by debris.”

The sycamore was destroyed in the intense blast from the towers’ collapse, sparing the chapel. They planted a new tree in its place, a spruce. Read the second part of Isaiah 9:10 again. Not exactly a cedar, but a conifer like it. Mystics will see a connection, left brain geeks will say close, but no cigar. Either way, you have to concede: it’s interesting at the very least.

The author (obviously) doesn’t cover my interest, which is: when’s the next Shemitah? The year runs from Sept. 25, 2014 through Sept. 13, 2015. So the last day of the next Sabbath year will be September 13, 2015.

But wait, there’s more. This website provides the reasoning why the year from Sept 2015 to Sept 2016 would be a jubilee year. There appears some disagreement over whether the jubilee cycle these days is 50 years or 49 years (the latter maintaining that jubilee only applies when the entire old land of Israel is occupied by Israel).

What do you think we should do about all of this?

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Who is responsible?

I was reviewing the Biblical history of Israel, and, frankly, it’s not that pretty.

  • 450 years in Egypt: no leader, no record of good leadership or worship
  • 40 years in the desert: unnecessary because of unbelief
  • 350 years era of the Judges: everyone followed their own way (except for a few interventions)
  • 40 years of King Saul: not the highlight of their history
  • 40 years with King David: in many ways the highlight of their history
  • 40 years with Solomon: in other ways their highlight
  • 350 years of divided kingdom, 10 tribes permanently apostate, 2 tribes with ups and downs
  • 70 years of exile
  • 430 silent years
  • 100 years New Testament times

And then Titus invaded Jerusalem, sacked it and dispersed the Jews (again). (All the dates are approximate and rounded, just to give a rough idea of the time scale.)

The nation followed the Lord in unity for only the reigns of David and Solomon — 80 years out of 1,900 (give or take). In all, hardly a stellar record.

But that isn’t what interested me. What really started it for me was the temple. The temple Solomon built, the grand one detailed in several chapters of the Bible, didn’t even last one generation. The Egyptians came in the reign of Solomon’s son (Rehoboam) and ransacked the temple. It was almost as if the paint hadn’t even dried properly yet. When I read this recently, my heart was just so sad. All this money, planning and resources spent on something to glorify the Lord, and He didn’t even protect it for a single full generation. Wow.

I thought about this for quite a few days. Without verbalizing it, I was questioning the Lord, and in particular His not supporting or protecting His beautiful house. I mean, if He didn’t protect Solomon’s temple, what makes me think He will protect His church in our day? And if He’s not even going to protect His house, how can I expect Him to protect my house? The first question is interesting; the last one is personal.

After a few days, I felt the Lord ask me a question back. What about the ark of the covenant? Did the ark last any longer? Did He ever protect it? As I looked into it, the differences were startling:

God commissioned and designed the ark. He never commissioned the temple; that was David’s idea. In fact, the Lord gave the idea a lukewarm reception. David had the best of intentions, to be sure, but God never ordered the temple. He definitely ordered the ark, though, with detailed specifications.

God protected the ark, and fiercely so. We all recall when the Philistines captured the ark and how the Lord made them return it in short order. The Lord dealt well with those who treated it respectfully (Obed-Edom) and harshly with those who didn’t, even among the Levites.

The ark survived intact from the time it was commissioned until God finally gave Judah over to the Babylonian exile. The temple in Jerusalem also survived, but not in the same glory as that which was dedicated to the Lord in that impactful ceremony.

And, finally, consider the usefulness for the average Israelite. People could enter the temple every now and then, but NOBODY ever saw the ark, except the High Priest and that only once a year. So, from a human standpoint, the temple appears to have had a greater utility for worship than the ark. But… the ark was God’s idea and the temple was man’s idea. One lasted a lot longer than the other, and that had nothing to do with how useful it appeared to be for man.

What’s the point of this comparison? God will protect, even prosper, what He ordains, commissions, promises, designs or implements. As for what we build, there is (as noted in the Ishmael post) nothing wrong with that, but it will last only as long as we can protect it.

What’s more, God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, knowing full well how imperfect Israel was going to be. The imperfection of the national history of Israel is staggering, but God, knowing the future was not looking for perfection in selecting His covenant partner. He was looking for the miracle birth, and that’s all. That tells me that I don’t need to be perfect to be a covenant partner with the Lord. I only need to be of miracle birth, as in born again. Perfection is not required at all, not of myself and neither of my brothers and sisters. Not now, and not in the future. That is just an amazing thought, and so encouraging!

When we serve the Lord, we serve Him best when He sets it all up.

Setting Out, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe