Summary: In Leviticus and Deut. God included in His covenant with Israel, the Shemitah which is the Hebrew word translated “release” in Deut. 15:1-3.Just as God reserved the seventh day of the week as a Sabbath, He also established the seventh year as the Shemitah
Is America in for a Shaking?
Since last Tuesday, $ 1.3 Trillion has been wiped out in U. S. market values. The Dow Jones Average fell 531 points Friday. That index has dropped 10% since May. Other nations are having similar declines. During the last few months China’s Shanghai market has lost one third of its value. Their index fell 11.5% Friday; and that’s after it devalued its currency in an effort to turn the decline around. Nobody knows exactly where all that will go from here. But that should be enough to alert people to the significance of the times we are in.
A week from Tuesday, I will be meeting with a group of Jewish leaders to learn more about the Iran Nuclear Agreement and how it will impact the nation of Israel if approved. North Korea is rattling her swords; and ISIS is vowing to destroy us. I hope the church of America doesn’t try to sleep through all this! I hope people realize that events are moving very rapidly around them. I don’t think any of this should cause us to fear; but it should cause us to pray.
Rabi Jonathan Cahn has written two books, The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah, to alert people to the significance of the times in which we live. In those books he does two things:
(1) he gives the historical and theological basis of Israel’s dispersion: why God judged His chosen nation of Israel and sent them into captivity and
(2) Rabi Cahn relates major events in America to biblical principles, particularly the Shemitah.
This morning I want to show you how Israel’s judgment was tied to the Shemitah. As a minimum, Rabi Cahn is correct about that. So let me first talk about what the Shemitah is.
In the covenant with Israel, God established every seventh year as a Sabbath year. It was to be a year of release from debt and a year of restoration for the land. The Jewish term for that seventh Sabbath year is Shemitah. It comes from the Hebrew word for release. Deut. 15:1-2 says "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD's release” (NKJV). The Hebrew word translated “release” is Shemitah. The Hebrew word means release, remission of debt, or suspension of labor. Let me read Deut. 15:1-3 from the NIV. “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you.”
So the command to Israel was that at the end of every seven years, they were to release any other Israelite from debt obligations to them. It only applied to those who were part of the covenant nation. If an Egyptian owed me $ 50,000 I don’t have to forgive his debt. He is a foreigner and not part of this covenant. If an Israelite owes me $ 40,000 of a $ 50,000 loan I made to him last year, then I have to forgive him the rest of the loan and wipe that $ 40,000 off my books. Can anyone see why the Israelite people in power (over time) did not obey that command? I’m sure when the year of Shemitah came they were thinking about all the reasons why they needed that $ 40,000 and were coming up with all kinds of loopholes for getting around the commandment. Historically, Israel did not honor that part of the covenant.
But why would God put that in His covenant with Israel? If a person makes a debt, shouldn’t that person have to pay it back?
(1) I’m sure the primary reason God put that in the covenant was to deal with the greed in men’s hearts. Every seventh year I get to make sure I don’t love money more than I love God. I get to bless others with a release of their obligation to me and I stay free of covetousness and greed.
(2) It was a way to level the wealth. There is an inherent power in money. Money has power to increase itself with just a little prudent management. You could invest it in a certificate of deposit and it would over time increase some. Had you invested it in stocks, it would have increased even more. If you’re a good manager, you might build apartments and make even more money. Capital is a powerful element in prosperity. That’s why most of the wealthy people in America were born that way. On the other hand, people who don’t have wealth tend to get indebted. Sometimes they get in debt just through poor business decisions. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of discipline. In other cases the person can’t find a job and with nothing coming in it doesn’t take very long to get into debt just to survive. The point is this. All other things being equal, because of the power of money, the rich tend to get richer and the poor tend to get poorer. But every seventh year some of that disparity gets corrected. A release from debt gives the poor Israelite the opportunity to work hard and get moving again. He gets a fresh start and has incentive to learn from past mistakes and work hard in the future.