Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

It started out with a package in the mail, a round archaeological artifact. It was a seal like those used to mark important documents.
Nouriel begins a dialogue on a park bench with a man who sees the seal. He has a seal too. He is a prophet. The prophet has a message for America. Like the ancient nation of Israel, America “is a nation conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception...” and “is in covenant with God.” (19) (Please see my critique of this statement below!) America was to “be a vessel of redemption, an instrument of God's purposes...” (19) Since America is turning away from God the hedge of protection will be removed.
Nine Harbingers, seen in Isaiah 9:10, are woven through the story. The first is the breach – the wall of protection is broken. That happened September 11, 2001. America made the mistake of not searching its heart after this attack. There was no thought of a judgment from God.
The second seal represents America invading Iraq, land of the ancient Assyrians.
With the third the nation rebuilds, stronger than before, but without seeking God, without repenting.
The fourth Harbinger reveals the leaders vowing to rebuild an even bigger tower with a defiant spirit.
The fifth Harbinger speaks of foundations and the huge “Freedom Stone” at Ground Zero.
The sixth, a fallen sycamore tree, symbolic of uprooting. The Tree of Hope is “the sign of a nation's defiant rejection of God's call to return.” (95)
The last two harbingers are unlike the others yet like all of them. They were Isa. 9:10 spoken after the disaster of 9/11.
Harbinger eight is the utterance, spoken by the VP candidate, John Edwards, at a Black caucus prayer breakfast on Sept. 11, 2004 (ch 12 footnote 4) “ that time, among the most prominent of the nation's leaders.” (106) Cahn's character says, “...he was pronouncing judgment on America.” (110) (See my comments below.)
The only hope for America is for people called by His name to repent (2 Chronicles 7:14).

This is an amazing novel (but I do have my reservations – see below). The parallels between Isaiah 9:10 and the events as Cahn has described them are very thought provoking. We Americans certainly need the message of repentance. The necessity of salvation is presented at the end of the book as well.
While a novel, Cahn says, “...what is contained within the story is real.” (v) If you would like to get an idea of what that is, see for pictures and additional information.
There are videos on YouTube, just search for The Harbinger.
See also, (Although, as of 10/16/2011 there was really nothing there.)

Cahn uses dialogue to convey concepts and to preach to the reader. It gets a bit tiresome after a while. It is almost like listening to a lecture where, when the speaker is ready to talk on the next point, someone asks him the precise question of that point.
Part of me wonders why Cahn has used the fiction format to get this message into print. Does a novel really carry the same impact a well presented nonfiction book would? The end message is sobering. I am just not so sure fiction is the proper way to convey it.

Charisma House, 254 pages.

I received an egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Now for my reservations:

Is America in covenant with God? Is America the “new Israel”?  Certainly, not all scholars think so.  Monsma says, “ is irresponsible for us evangelicals, who have a high view of Scripture, to apply the promises and warnings made in the Old Testament to the present day United States. There is no biblical basis for believing that God has made a special covenant with the United States or named Americans as his chosen people. Today God works through his worldwide church, which is drawn out of “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev. 7:9), not through a special, chosen nation. The United States is not the equivalent of Old Testament Israel.” (Steve Monsma, Healing for a Broken World, Crossway Books, 2008, page 22.)

Did Edwards pronounce judgment on America? I am not sure an individual never elected to any political position higher than representing a state, can speak for the nation, or pronounce judgment on a nation.

So what about all the events recorded in this book that align so closely to the interpretation of Isaiah 9:10?
Here is an example of how the characters pursued a symbol of prophecy:
“A breach in a holy place?”
“Yes. So I began searching for anything having to do with a breach in a house of worship...and of significance for America.” (192)
Do we take a Scripture from the Old Testament and then try to find the events in the United States that fulfill it? (Of course, after the fact.)
So we have one verse in Isaiah for which Cahn has found parallel events in the United States. We know the trouble one can get in by using one verse to prove something...

Speaking of St. Paul's Church, “'America,' said the prophet, 'was dedicated as a nation on this ground to God.'” (212) He had earlier quoted Washington's command for people “to commit the new government to the holy protection and blessing of the Most High.” (202) The newly inaugurated Washington and the Congress went into St. Paul's Church to pray (for protection and blessing). To me, this is very different than Solomon's word to God before the nation of Israel, committing that nation to serve and worship God.

It is interesting, to me at least, that 9/11 and the Wall Street economic collapse (two big judgment events according to Cahn) occurred during the presidency of George W. Bush, probably the most outspoken “Christian” president we have recently had.

So I have mixed emotions about this book. It was an exciting read but I think it has very serious theological problems.  

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