The shemitah (sabbatical year cycle) has become a hot issue, beginning with Jonathan Cahn’s book, "The Harbinger" and (more recently) "The Mystery of the Shemitah", and "Four Blood Moons" by Mark Biltz. I am more familiar with Pastor Cahn’s books, and have great respect for him. Some aspects of his recent books are certain to raise the anxiety of many believers.
There are some concerns that merit a “pastoral response.”
While American culture may well be ripe for judgment, it is important to accurately handle what the scriptures say (2 Timothy 2:15). Here are my top three concerns about The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah: The 3,000 Year-Old Mystery That Holds The Secret of America's Future.
FIRST: Pastor Cahn applies scripture out of context. If you have read Harbinger, you may have noted that he develops his argument around Isaiah 9:10 — “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” He then applies it to America, the events surrounding 9/11, including the planting of a specific tree at the 9/11 memorial. He provides corroborating evidence from current events and statements by various politicians.
But what is the context of that prophecy?
Isaiah 9:8 clearly identifies the recipients of the prophecy as Israel. Not America. Not Britain. Not any nation or culture other than Israel, God’s covenant people. Isaiah 9:8 — "The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel.” This is important because, if we were to apply this same method of try-to-make-it-fit interpretation to other parts of the Bible, we could reshape any passage to make it fit our preference. But that would ignore the Lord’s intent behind the passage in question.
Several commentators in evangelical & Messianic congregations have expressed the same concern about Cahn’s books. It puzzles me that he feels at liberty to apply to America a prophecy that God clearly directed at Israel.
SECOND: in The Mystery of the Shemitah, Cahn cites the 7-year sabbatical cycle and asserts it to be a general principle for the economic cycles of the world. The shemitah (Hebrew for “release”) was a seven-year cycle, at the end of which Israel was to allow its fields to lie fallow, and all debts would be forgiven. (See Exodus 23:10-12 and Leviticus 25:1-7.) Israel would ultimately go into the Babylonian exile for 70 years because they had failed to observe 70 cycles of the sabbatical year (shemitah). But God gave this ordinance specifically to Israel and no other nation.
There is no justification in his application of it as a general principle for the United States or any other nation. Add to that the fact that his “data” does not take into account that the observable economic cycles in our current history are not always 7 years. There have been 4-year cycles, even 10-year cycles. If it were a true prophetic principle, it would not vary. Furthermore, no one knows when the Jewish sabbatical years actually fell. Various groups, even within the Jewish community, have calculated this differently. Any claim to know the exact timing of the 7-year shemitah cycle is based on speculation.
THIRD: Cahn (and other authors such as Biltz in Four Blood Moons) strongly suggests that he has inside information regarding this “mystery”. If so, then this is an entirely novel assertion, bordering on “new revelation". One of the principles that any serious student of God’s Word must remember is, “If you see something in Scripture that is ‘brand new’, you may be wandering onto thin ice.” Though I don’t consider Cahn or Biltz to be heretics, they are, nevertheless, skating toward dangerous territory.
I do not doubt the sincerity or salvation of Pastor Cahn or Mark Biltz, but my fear is that they are popularizing and marketing prophetic sensationalism. America may well be on the cusp of God’s righteous wrath, but not on the basis of the shemitah.