The word “shemitah” has been making the rounds of Christian churches in America. However, what in the world is the “shemitah”? The word “shemitah” is a legal Biblical term. It originates in the Torah, the first five books of the Scriptures. Shemitah in Hebrew means a “legally permanent release”. The main idea of the word shemitah in the Hebrew means to “violently throw something down with force—to utterly destroy something”. God’s law commanded that every seventh year Israel must allow the land to rest completely. There was to be no harvesting, reaping or any other work in the fields. Also, creditors were to release all who owed money (Deut. 15:1-2). This was the shemitah (or “release” in Hebrew). However, what has all of this to do with America – the United States?
The idea of the “shemitah” was popularized by the “Messianic Christian Rabbi” Jonathan Cahn. Rabbi Cahn, a best-selling author, has written books on the subject of the “shemitah”. These include: The Harbinger, The Mystery of the Shemitah Unlocked and The Mystery of the Shemitah. I read The Harbinger: the Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. The book was written as a fictional narrative. It is based on what Rabbi Cahn believes are undeniable facts from the biblical text. He connects the history of 8th century B.C. Israel with current events of the last decade in America.
The overall purpose of The Harbinger is to call America to repent for turning her back on God and moving away from the foundations upon which the country was built. It is also to warn of the danger of God’s judgment that this represents. Not only is this a valid message, but one that needs to be told. Jonathan Cahn should be commended for his passion in sharing this message with a national audience. I have to admit that the book is a good read. It is one of those books that are hard to put down once you start reading. Moreover, I can certainly understand why it is on the bestseller list. However, the question becomes does the “shemitah” apply to us in America today? Should we concern ourselves with something that originated in the Law of Moses?
Rabbi Cahn based The Harbinger on Isaiah 9:10. This scripture is where the House of Israel made a defiant statement to rebuild after the Assyrians attacked them. However, the question is this: Is there any indication in scripture that Isaiah or the Lord intended Isaiah 9:10 to apply to us today? Is it meant for anyone other than the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century B.C.?
Isaiah 9:10 (KJV) – “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”
Furthermore, in The Harbinger, there is no mention of the first seven verses of Isaiah chapter 9. That is important! Isaiah chapter 9 contains some of the most important messianic kingdom passages in the entire Old Testament. This is a significant omission when dealing with the subject of Israel’s judgment. The kingdom will come, and Messiah will rule from the throne of David forever. Rabbi Cahn fails to mention these verses.
For example, Isaiah 9:1-3 speaks of a light that will shine upon Zebulun and Naphtali. That light is the coming Messiah, Jesus.
Isaiah 9:1-3 (KJV) – ” Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”
Isaiah 9:6-7 clearly foretells the coming of the promised Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV) – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Was Isaiah 9:1-3 fulfilled? Yes! We read in Matthew 4:13-17 that the first place that Jesus ministered was in Zebulun and Naphtali! These were the very places that were attacked first by the Assyrians. Read it for yourselves in Matthew 4:13-17:
Matthew 4:13-17 (KJV) – “And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus was the light that shined, the Light of the World. These are the cities were Jesus first called His disciples. You know what that tells me? It tells me that God was not upset by their statement in Isaiah 9:10. This is the basis of the story of The Harbinger.
In my opinion, the whole premise of Rabbi Cahns’ Harbinger book is flawed. Isaiah chapter 9 is about the House of Israel, and the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Therefore, it has nothing to do with the terror attacks on 9/11 or the economic collapse of America. It is funny, most Christians do not believe that the Old Testament laws apply anymore (or they should not). Millions are buying into what Jonathan Cahn is teaching about the shemitah. Moreover, they are doing so without bothering to search the scriptures to verify what they are reading.
The “shemitah” is the concept of giving the land rest every seven years. And if that does not happen, then God will cause calamity. Let’s be clear. The “shemitah” was given to the Israelites to observe. It does not apply to America. Rabbi Cahn associates a pattern of financial collapses in the United States with the “shemitah”. While I readily admit that America, and the entire world for that matter, is staring over an economic abyss, I do not believe Isaiah chapter 9 predicts our present situation. Rabbi Cahn warns that there will be a collapse in 2015 because of the “shemitah”.
While I believe that the U.S. economy could collapse later in 2015, I do not believe it is the hand of God. In fact, there is a relatively small group of people that control the world’s money supply. They control the International Bank of Settlements, the World Bank, the Federal Reserve and the central banks. They control the major banks and financial institutions. They control the world’s interest rates. Moreover, they can crash the system on any day at any hour. So if our monetary system flames out you can bet the cause will be man and not God!
Yes, the economy could collapse when or if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. Raising interest rates could cause the quadrillion dollar derivatives market to crash. Moreover, maybe that is part of God’s judgment. Rabbi Cahn also said that America’s sins will lead to the destruction of Israel. If Israel is destroyed it will not because of America. If God really is behind the nation of Israel, He can protect it just fine without America’s help.
The New Testament never indicates any Sabbath-keeping at either the day or year level for believers after Christ’s death on the cross. The writer of Hebrews does give additional insight into the matter of the Sabbath for believers in Christ. To prepare Jewish Christians for the soon-coming destruction of the temple, the author states that those who have believed the gospel have already entered into God’s Sabbath rest by faith. This would include both the Sabbath day and the Sabbath year (Heb:4:1-3, 8-10). Therefore, because Christ fulfilled the Law, God does not impose a Sabbath day or a Sabbath year (the Shemitah) upon believers.
God no longer expects Jews or any nation to continue keeping the Sabbath day or shemitah. Rather, His desire is that all would enter His Sabbath rest through faith in Christ. There is no biblical basis whatsoever for Cahns’ theory concerning an imposed shemitah. The opposite is true—his theory runs counter to the Word of God and the gospel.
Jonathan Cahns’ suggestion that America may be under an imposed shemitah is in opposition to the biblical concept of the Sabbath laws given to Israel alone and the fulfillment of those laws for believers in Christ. This does not mean that God will not judge the nations, including America. Moreover, this does not mean that His judgment is not already underway. It may very well be—and if so, it is well deserved. However, whatever the judgment is or will be, it is not an imposed shemitah judgment connected with Isaiah:9:10.