[The following was inspired by the book "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn. However, what you are about to read are not quotes or even paraphrases from that book but is the result of my own research of independent sources on the same subject.]
Harbinger: an omen or sign that foretells or warns of a coming event, usually one that is unpleasant.
In 735 B.C. Pekah was the king of the kingdom of Israel, whose capital was the city of Samaria. In that year he made an alliance with King Rezin of Aram (modern-day Syria) whose capital city was Damascus. Together their armies marched against Jerusalem, the capital city of the kingdom of Judah, whose king was Ahaz. When Ahaz learned of this alliance and saw the armies coming against him his heart and the heart of his people were shaken like the trees of a forest are shaken by the wind (Isaiah 7:1,2).
However, the prophet Isaiah told Ahaz "Sanctify the Lord and put your fear and dread in Him. If you do this, He will be your safety and He will destroy those who seek to destroy you" (Isaiah 8:13,14). Isaiah promised Ahaz that the time would soon come when both Samaria and Damascus would be destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser, king of the Assyrian empire (Isaiah 8:3-8) which encompassed the land we now call Iraq. The Assyrians were greatly feared because they didn't wage war the way most armies did. The method they used to defeat their enemies was through the use of terror. The word "terror" is defined as the act of instilling intense, overwhelming fear and dread in an opponent. As such, they were the original terrorist nation.
The kingdom of Israel was made up of ten of the tribes, three of whom were Zebulum, Naphtali, and Ephraim. Through Isaiah the Lord warned that the land of Zebulum and Naphatali had already been "lightly afflicted," meaning that they had already been attacked but had managed to successfully defend themselves although not without some serious losses. However, the Lord warned that if they did not repent they would be attacked again, but this time more grievously (Isaiah 9:1). The reason why was because Israel had once been given great light but now she was walking in darkness. She once served God but now she worshipped foreign and false gods. For this reason she was going to be destroyed. This was the word of the Lord which He sent to the kingdom of Israel (9:8).
But, rather than repenting of their wicked ways and turning back to God for help, in their pride and arrogance they proclaimed, "The bricks have fallen down but we will rebuild with dressed (hewn) stone. The sycamore trees have fallen but we will replace them with cedars" (9:10). In other words, instead of turning to God and trusting in Him, they vowed that if their walls and cities were torn down, they would rebuild them, using stronger material than before, and if their sycamore trees were cut down, they would replace them with stronger and finer cedar trees. This vow was not one of positive self-confidence and resolve but was an act of defiance and was a boast in the power of their own strength (9:9).
Because of this vow, the Lord declared that He would strengthen Israel's foes because God's anger was against them and His hand would not be shortened, meaning that He would not stop until they had been destroyed because "His people have not returned to Him who smites them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts. Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel [both its] head and tail in one day" (9:11-40).
The Assyrians also had their eye on Jerusalem but the Lord protected Judah and saved her from destruction, at least at that time. God sent Isaiah and Jeremiah to continually warn Judah to repent and turn back to God but rather than heed the warnings, Judah continued to behave the way Israel had and turned away from God. Therefore in 587 B.C. it was the Babylonian Empire who came and destroyed Jerusalem. Not even their sacred temple could spare them from this fate. They had turned their back on God and left Him and, in response, God turned His back on them and they were destroyed.
During the mid-1700s, there was a religious revival in America, known as the Great Spiritual Awakening. It was during this time that America, as a nation, turned to God in great numbers. Their houses of worship were full and their ministers were filled with the fire of God. It was in this atmosphere that the Declaration of Independence was written, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence." It was in this same atmosphere that the Revolutionary War was fought and won, and in which the Constitution of the United States was conceived and written.
Since that time God's hand has been upon America and she has prospered economically, militarily, and in power to become the greatest nation on earth. Throughout its history, it has won every war she had been engaged in. It has been often said that "America is great because America is good but if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." Although America has done some things in her history that are ugly and immoral yet, for the greatest part America, as a nation, has been good.
However, starting in the 1960s, that began to change. That's when the sexual revolution started. That's when the Beatles declared they were more popular than God. That's when Time Magazine ran a cover story declaring that "God is dead." This was the time when the concept of marriage started to change, when gay rights became popular and the theory of "open marriages" and "swingers" was introduced. No longer was birth out of wedlock seen as a disgrace and the idea of "trial marriages" were promoted as a better way to have happier marriages. In 1962 the Supreme Court banned the use of prayer in public schools and in 1973 the Supreme Court made the killing of unborn infants (abortion) legal.
There have always been individual cases of wickedness but now the nation as a whole was quickly replacing God with their own idols of sex, materialism, fame, and money. During this time things were going well for Americans and they enjoyed the highest standard of living of anyone on earth. Then there came a war in Viet Nam, which was the first war we lost. We blamed the politicians, our soldiers, the peace movement and public opinion but, instead of turning to God and seeing this loss as a harbinger of where we were headed, we continued moving further away from God.
Then came September 11, 2001 when two jumbo jets flew into both towers of the World Trade Center in down town Manhattan in New York City. Before the day was over, both of these towers collapsed and this area became known as ground zero. One television news anchor exclaimed, "Just think of it. Our two symbols of power and prosperity have been smitten in one hour." I'm sure he didn't realize that he was expressing the warning in Isaiah which predicted that the Lord could cut off both the head and tail of Israel in one day. Although our country's head and tail were not cut off, September 11 was a harbinger that it could happen.
This was the first time America had been attacked on her own soil by a foreign nation since the war of 1812 and it was attacked by terrorists from the Middle East in the same part of the world where both the Assyrians and Babylonians had come from. Was this a harbinger - an omen of what is about to happen to America in her future? The World Trade Towers were a symbol of America's economic might and power in the world and they fell. Was this a harbinger - a sign of America's pending economic fall?
On the outskirts of ground zero sits a small, historic church known as St. Paul's Episcopal church that had a sycamore tree growing in its yard. On that fateful September 11th day, as debris from the World Trade Center fell from the sky, a large steel beam struck that sycamore tree and knocked it down. But, as it fell, it rested on the roof of St. Paul's church, thereby covering it and protecting it from damage. All the buildings in that area of ground zero had either been completely destroyed or were so badly damaged that they had to be demolished. The only building that wasn't damaged was St. Paul's church. In fact, not one window pane was broken and that sycamore tree became known as "the tree that saved St. Paul's church."
This church went on to become a sanctuary or a place of refuge for those who came to help. This is where the firemen and rescue workers came for rest and sleep. Over 5,000 volunteers came and used this building to help serve food to the rescue workers. Doctors, lawyers, and ministers of many faiths came to this church to offer their services for free, and single moms and teenagers came to help prepare the food and keep the place clean.
In the week that followed 911, people flocked to their places of worship and turned to God. Even the nation's leaders gathered together to call on God. On September 14, 2001 there was a National Day of Prayer service held in the Washington National Cathedral. In attendance were every living former and current president of the United States, leaders or ambassadors from almost every country in the world, along with ministers, pastors, and Rabbis from almost every faith. The service was even televised for all America to see and participate in vicariously. On that day Americans turned to God.
But then, soon, America left her churches and returned to her godless ways as she had been doing before 911. She did not see this as a sign from God that His protective hand had been lifted. She didn't sense her vulnerability and turn to God for His protection. Instead, on the very day of the attack, Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York City, came forth and said, "We will rebuild. We're going to come out of this stronger than before, politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again."
The next day, September 12, 2001, Tom Daschle, the Majority Leader of the Senate made the following statement from the floor of the Senate: "It is with pain, sorrow, anger, and resolve that I stand before this Senate -- a symbol for 212 years of the strength of our Democracy -- and say that America will emerge from this tragedy as we have emerged from all adversity -- united and strong…. Last night, we sent a message to the world that even in the face of such cowardly and heinous acts, the doors of democracy will not close… There is a passage in the Bible, from Isaiah, that I think speaks to all of us at times like this. "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." That is what we will do. We will rebuild and we will recover."
On July 6, 2004, the cornerstone was laid for the new building that was to replace the World Trade Center. In the ceremony that was held to commemorate this event, George Pataki, the governor of New York said, "Today is indeed a momentous day. Today we take 20 tons of Adirondack granite -- the bedrock of our state -- and place it as the foundation, the bedrock of a new symbol of American strength and confidence. Today, we lay the cornerstone for a new symbol of this city and this country and of our resolve in the face of terror."
When the "bricks" of the World Trade Center fell, America began rebuilding it with a granite stone, hewn from the mountains of the Adirondack in New York State. However, since then the work of rebuilding the World Trade Center has encountered one problem after another and more than ten years later the work has yet to be completed. Even so, no one sees this as a harbinger that the hand of Lord is against them.
The damaged sycamore tree at St. Paul's Episcopal church was taken down and removed and on November 29, 2003 in its place they planted a 21-foot Norway Spruce tree in the northwest corner of the chapel's church yard. They named this new tree, the "Tree of Hope." A Spruce tree belongs to the same family of as the cedar tree. They had literally planted a cedar tree to replace their fallen sycamore tree
Yet despite this, when a memorial service was to be held on September 11, 2011commemorating the tragedy of 911, Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, banned all religious clergy from participating in this event and even prohibited the saying of prayers. Instead of returning to God as the source of their safety, the nation continued moving further away from Him at an ever quickening pace.
The source of America's power and prestige in the world is a direct result of her economic prosperity and Wall Street is the symbol of that prosperity. The day after 911 the stock markets were closed but when they reopened on September 17, the Dow Jones Industrial average dropped 7% and it was reported that "More than $1.5 trillion dollars of the market value had been wiped out." Yet, by the end of the week there was evidence that the stock market was beginning to recover and over the next several years the stock market rose to new heights. America had been hit physically and economically. She had been "lightly afflicted" but she had survived and was returning to normal. There were no more attacks on her soil and the country was in a boom cycle. As terrible as 911 was at the time, it seemed that America was still as strong as ever and that the effects of that attack were minimal, or so it seemed.
Just as the land of Zebulum and Naphtali had been "lightly afflicted" but would be afflicted more grievously if they did not repent, the same fated awaited America. Commenting on the prophecy found in Isaiah 9, the renown biblical commentator, Matthew Henry, wrote, "…those [who] are ripening for ruin, whose hearts are unhumbled under humbling providences. For that which God designs, smiting us, is [meant] to turn us to himself; and if this point be not gained by lesser judgments [then] greater [judgments] may be expected… The people [who] turn not to Him who has smitten them, therefore he continues to smite [them]: for when God judges, he will overcome; and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break."
During the years after 911 there was a housing boom and Congress had passed laws requiring banks to relax the requirements for approving loans for the purchase of homes. Those whose credit would normally not qualify them for a loan were given what was called a sub-prime loan, meaning that instead of being prime candidates for a loan, they were sub-prime candidates, whose ability to repay the loan was questionable at best. As a result of this practice, the demand for homes dramatically increased and so did the prices of homes.
But then people began to default on their payments. Having bought homes they couldn't afford, more and more home owners found themselves unable to make their monthly payments. As a result, the banks who had lent money to these sub-prime home owners, found themselves holding billions of dollars in debt. One the largest banks who found themselves in this condition was Lehman Brothers.
By 2008 Lehman Bros. realized they were in serious trouble and their condition was getting worse. They were suffering unprecedented losses and knew that unless they were able to not only stop but reverse this trend, they were going to go bankrupt. As their quarterly reports were made public, Lehman's financial problems also became clear to the rest of the banking industry and a sense of panic began to set in throughout the entire financial sector, not only of America but around the world.
On September 9, 2008 the Dow Jones Industrial average dropped 300 points on news of Lehman's financial troubles. On September 15 Lehman filed for bankruptcy and the DJI dropped another 500 points, the largest single day drop in the history of Wall Street. On September 29, the DJI dropped another 7%. The housing market collapsed and the price of homes began to drop and, as they did, more and more home owners found themselves paying for loans on houses that were worth less and less than what they had paid for them. This condition is known as being "under water."
But Lehman Brothers wasn't the only bank who was in trouble. In fact, there were so many large banks that were in danger of collapsing that it was deemed they were "too big to fail." It was said that if they went out of business, like Lehman Brothers did, it would financially destroy America. Therefore, to avert this catastrophe on October 3, 2008 President George W. Bush signed into law The Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) which was designed to have the federal government purchase the defaulted sub-prime mortgages that banks were holding. This and other decisions by the United States government put America deeper and deeper in financial trouble. The economic effect that resulted from the collapse of Lehman Brothers was far worse than that caused by 911. America's prosperity was beginning to reel from this blow and our economy has been in decline ever since.
But there was another unnoticed aspect of this event which was its timing. In the Bible we read, "And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord" (Leviticus 25:1-6).
The Lord also told Moses, "At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release" (Deuteronomy 15:1,2).
The length of time between September 2001 when the World Trade Center fell and September 2008 when the stock market fell is seven years. Furthermore, all those whom the banks had given sub-prime mortgages to and who defaulted on those loans, had, in effect, been released from their obligations by the federal government.
However, instead of seeing this problem as the judgment of God upon America for turning its back on Him, American leaders turn to themselves as the means of solving their problems. In November 2008 Americans elected Barack Obama as their next president.
In a speech before a joint session of Congress on February 24, 2009 President Obama said: "I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so… But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before. (Applause.)
"The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more."
Instead of turning to God, President Obama urged Americans to turn to themselves and depend on their laboratories, universities, farms, factories, business, and pride to save our country from its financial problems. Since then, our business output had tumbled, unemployment has skyrocketed, inflation is on the rise, and we are going deeper and deeper in debt.
For the first time in American history American cities are filing for bankruptcy and many states are close to being in the same condition. For the first time in American history our credit rating has been downgraded and our currency, which used to be the strongest in the world, is steadily declining in value to the point where other countries are seriously considering getting off the dollar as the standard of doing business. Yet, Americans have drifted so far from God that they can't recognize these events as harbingers of what is coming because they don't know either the ways of God or the history of our country.
On the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street is a statue of George Washington standing with his right hand outstretched with its palm turned down. Most people don't know what Federal Hall is or the significance of the statue that stands outside of it.
After the Constitution of the United States was ratified, George Washington was chosen to be the country's first president. Although the Constitution called for the formation of an independent city, ten miles square in size, to be formed between Virginia and Maryland as the place where the nation's capital would be located, on Washington's first inauguration day it had not yet been established, let alone built, nor could it be until the first Congress met and planned it. Therefore, the place where the first Congress met was in New York City and the place where George Washington took his oath of office was on the steps of Federal Hall. This is what the statue of George Washington there is meant to represent, and the reason why his right hand is turned down is because this was his position as he laid his hand on the Bible as he took his oath of office.
After the oath and while still standing on those steps, Washington offered the first presidential inaugural address on April 30, 1789. In that address Washington said that it would be "peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aide can supply every human defect… In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States…
"We ought to be no less persuaded that 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 since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps finally, staked of the experiment...the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessings may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend."
In the first address ever given by the President of the United States to the people of America, Washington made a fervent supplication (prayer) to the Almighty, giving homage to Him who is the Author of all that is good, both in private and in public life. After acknowledging that this sentiment was fully held by his fellow citizens he then said that he is persuaded that the divine blessings and smiles of heaven cannot be expected on a nation who disregards "the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained" nor can we expect our liberty, security and happiness to be established and enlarged without these "divine blessings" upon the wisdom of those on whom "this government must depend."
When Washington was done speaking he led a procession of all the delegates who had been elected to Congress, down Wall Street to a little church about a block away where they all attended church services. This place was St. Paul's Episcopal church, the same building that was saved from destruction when the World Trade Towers fell. It was in that church where this nation dedicated itself to God as its first official act of its new government and committed itself to following the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained. They also acknowledged that they do not expect "the propitious smiles of Heaven" upon them if they violate those rules of order and right.
This was the covenant America made with God and, as such, it was the foundation on which America was build and on which it stands. When America broke that covenant by turning away from God she not only brought upon herself God's judgment but it came upon America in the place where Washington committed his country to God.
The falling of the World Trade Center was not just a harbinger of God's displeasure with America but it was a symbol that America had broken the covenant it made with Him on April 30, 1789. Because the foundation on which America was built had fallen into disrepair and was starting to crack, it is only natural to expect that the house which rests on that foundation started to become shaky and unstable. It's also ironic that the statute of George Washington with his hand in position over the Bible, on the very steps where he paid homage to God, is facing towards the destruction that came upon America when it violated the pledge he made.
But more interestingly, the place where the commitment to God was made - Federal Hall and St. Peter's church - were untouched by the destruction. The church especially was miraculously spared from harm, which is a harbinger of where we need to go to escape God's judgment. St. Peter's church is symbolic of the place where God dwells and where man comes to commune with and consecrate himself to God. Therefore, just as that church became a sanctuary to those who gave of themselves to help in the aftermath of 911, so too it becomes a symbol of where America must go to find a sanctuary from those who seek to harm us and where we can go to receive divine relief and help in our time of need.
In the beginning of our country, when the nation looked to God, He raised up wise, good, and honorable men to establish our Constitution. As President, Washington asked for God's wisdom to be upon him and those in Congress, but now that America and its leaders no longer look to God, we are electing men of poor judgment who no longer enjoy God's wisdom upon their councils. As a result, the more these men try to solve our country's problems, the worse they make the situation. This too is part of God's judgment on America and is why He has allowed Barack Obama to become our President.
When King Solomon, as the head of the kingdom of Israel, dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, he said, "Oh Lord, when thy people Israel have been smitten by their enemy because they have sinned against thee and they turn again to thee and confess thy name and make supplication to thee, then hear their prayers and forgive the sins of thy people. Forgive the sins of thy servants and teach them the good way wherein they should walk and turn from their sins whenever thou has afflicted them….
"When thy people sin against you - for there is no one who does not sin - and you become angry with them and you give them over to their enemies and they have a change of heart and repent and plead with you saying: We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, hear their prayers and their pleas. Forgive your people who have sinned against you. Forgive them all the offences they have committed against you. May you listen to them whenever they cry unto you" (I king 8:33-52).
God doesn't want to destroy us. In fact, His desire is to save us because that is the very essence of His nature. It is not in His nature to want to inflict harm on anyone. But, like all fathers, when His children don't listen to Him and they become rebellious, He has no other choice than to apply discipline. But discipline isn't for the purpose of retribution or revenge but is meant as a means to help us change our behavior. And, like all fathers, discipline is administered lightly at first and only becomes progressively more intense when children don't learn from their previous punishment. It is God's purpose to save us and the only way He can do that is to call us to repentance and get us to turn around our behavior. That is why He sends us harbingers.
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