WASHINGTON – Strike 1: It’s a two-hour documentary.
Strike 2: It’s a low-budget production.
Strike 3: It was made for Christians, with no marketing budget and no distribution deal.
So the odds would suggest the chances for success of “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” would be, at best, a long shot.
But since its release in March of this year, the film treatment of Jonathan Cahn’s message in the No. 1 bestselling Christian book of 2012, “The Harbinger,” has been the bestselling faith movie or TV show in the country. It has held the No. 1 position on the Amazon charts for 20 straight weeks, as well as remaining among the top five or six documentaries of any kind during that same period.
“It’s a remarkable story you won’t read in the Hollywood Reporter or Variety, or, I’m afraid, in any Christian publications, either, for that matter,” said Joseph Farah, the producer of the WND Films project. “For whatever reason, the success of ‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment’ is still a well-guarded secret surrounded by multimillion-dollar productions and film distribution deals. And it’s getting bigger every day.”
At first, the film was distributed only in the WND Superstore, Amazon and a few major book retailers. This was by necessity because the entire project – from conception to release – took place within six months. There has been no advertising outside of WND.
But the film got a big promotional boost riding on the success of the publishing phenomenon of “The Harbinger” and lots of good word of mouth.
Now plans are being made to show the film on major Christian television networks. It’s being screened in churches, big and small, across the country, and the orders just keep pouring in.
“I believe we have a chance of selling 500,000 copies of the DVD by the end of 2012,” said Farah. “And that’s good because ‘The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment’ is a message that America needs to hear – desperately.”
What’s the compelling subject matter that has driven the sales?
The movie suggests America is being chastened by God for turning away from His ways with striking and eerie parallels to the way ancient Israel was judged.
Both the book and the movie show the uncanny parallels between events prior to the dispersion of Israel and events taking place in the U.S. today. In fact, the events continue to unfold even after the release of the book and movie. But the book and the movie tell the story in very different ways.
See the highlights:
"The Harbinger" is listed officially as a work of fiction, because of the narrative format, including fictional characters. "The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment" is a documentary chronicle of real events – most of which Americans have no idea ever took place, even though they witnessed some of them.
The events have all taken place since Sept. 11, 2001, and they all connect to one obscure verse in the Bible – Isaiah 9:10.
"The ancient vow begins with these words: 'The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with hewn stone,'" explains Cahn. "The vow declares Israel's defiance of God, in the face of a devastating strike on the land. The hewn stone, which begins the rebuilding, symbolizes the nation’s intention to come back stronger than before. The book then reveals the parallel to proclamations by Barack Obama in his first State of the Union message, then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle the day after 9/11 to a joint session of Congress and former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards on the third anniversary of 9/11.
Cahn also reveals in "The Harbinger" and "The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment" something that readers and viewers universally find astonishing – that New York's Ground Zero actually represents more than the former financial center of the country. It represents the exact place at which America was first consecrated to God in prayer by the country's new leaders.
"When judgment came to Israel, the calamity returned the people's attention to the place where the nation had been consecrated to God – the Temple Mount," says Cahn. "God was calling the nation back to Himself. What about 9/11? Could there be, in the American calamity, as well, a mystery of return? Could there be a prophetic message hidden in the place where it happened? There is a place where America was consecrated to God in prayer. It is also a place linked to a prophetic warning given on that same day – uttered by the nation’s first president – now coming to pass."
In 1789, newly inaugurated President George Washington gave a prophetic warning at Federal Hall in New York City. He declared that America's prosperity and protection were dependent upon its adherence to God. Later, the political leaders of the young nation gathered at St. Paul's Chapel to commit the nation's future to God’s purposes. That chapel is located at Ground Zero and miraculously survived 9/11 virtually unscathed.
Cahn, the pastor of the Jerusalem Center-Beth Israel Congregation in Wayne, N.J., says America is uncannily re-enacting ancient Israel's behavior prior to its judgment and eventual fall. He found a sympathetic ear for his message in WND founder Farah, who produced "The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment," as a follow-up to "The Harbinger."
"I had a chance to hear Jonathan Cahn's message last fall," said Farah. "Then I had an opportunity to read an early manuscript of 'The Harbinger' before it was released in January. I was determined to produce this video documentary, 'The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,' because I believe its message is the most important one for Americans at this moment in history. In fact, I believe this project may be the most important one of my life. That's how strongly I feel about it."
The key to decoding the harbingers, Cahn says, is found in understanding the seemingly innocuous words of Isaiah 9:10 (King James Version) what it meant to Israel and how the history seems to be repeating itself in America today: "The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: The sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars."
These words were first uttered by leaders in Israel and in response to a limited strike by Assyria on the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali – an attack the prophet makes clear is actually part of a limited judgment by God against apostasy. It wasn't meant to destroy the nation, but to awaken it, according to most commentaries.
But, says Cahn, Israel didn't take the cue. Instead, the response from the people in Isaiah 9:10 is one of defiance. The brick buildings were toppled, but they vowed to build bigger and better. The little sycamore trees may have been uprooted, but they vowed to plant bigger and better cedars in their place.
God, speaking through Isaiah, explains what will happen as a result of their pride and arrogance and failure to heed the harbinger: Bigger and more potent attacks will follow. Because neither the northern kingdom of Israel nor the southern kingdom of Judah truly repents, the first is eventually swept away by Assyrian invaders and the latter is carried off into captivity by the Babylonians for 70 years.
But what does this have to do with the United States of America – particularly what the U.S. experienced on 9/11 and since? Cahn has found some eerie parallels.
"In the aftermath of the attack, the nation was stunned," said Cahn. "Everyone was trying to make sense of what had happened – this unprecedented attack on America. The very next day, Sept. 12, then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle presented America's response to the world. And what did he say?"
Daschle said: "America will emerge from this tragedy as we have emerged from all adversity – united and strong. Nothing … nothing can replace the losses of those who have suffered. I know there is only the smallest measure of inspiration that can be taken from this devastation. But there is a passage in the Bible from Isaiah that speaks to all of us at times like this."
Incredibly, he then went on to read Isaiah 9:10.
"Daschle has no idea what he is doing here," explains Cahn. "He thinks he's offering comforting words to a grief-stricken people, but he is actually embracing the spiritually defiant and arrogant words of the children of Israel, proclaiming the ancient and ominous vow of the leaders of that nation. He doesn't realize it, but he is actually inviting more judgment on the nation."
It might be of some significance that Daschle, one of the most powerful men in the nation when he spoke those words, later fell into disgrace – to the point where he couldn't even serve in Barack Obama's Cabinet.
That might have been the end of the story – if no other top leader in the nation uttered those strange and obscure words after 9/11. But that's not the case.
On the third anniversary of the attack, Sept. 11, 2004, another powerful U.S. senator running for vice president that year and who would famously run for the presidency four years later, gave a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus.
This time, John Edwards' entire speech was built on a foundation of Isaiah 9:10:
"Today, on this day of remembrance and mourning, we have the Lord's Word to get us through," he said. He then read Isaiah 9:10. He went on to talk about how America was doing just that – rebuilding with hewn stone and planting cedars.
"Like Daschle, Edwards thinks he's invoking inspirational and comforting words from the Bible, but he's actually inviting judgment on America," says Cahn. "He's repeating the vow that provoked God to bring calamity on ancient Israel."
Even more astonishing, Daschle and Edwards were not alone among U.S. leaders in making similar statements, as "The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment" shows.
But aside from such statements, which could be chalked up to political talk and coincidences, is there anything else linking Isaiah 9:10 to 9/11?
The video documentary, like the book, is full of shocking parallels. There was actually a very famous sycamore tree felled in the attack on the World Trade Center. It was replaced by trees in the same genus as the cedar. There have been many plans made to rebuild the twin towers bigger and better and a large "hewn stone" was actually quarried out of the Adirondack Mountains in New York and brought to Ground Zero as a cornerstone.
"The parallels are truly stunning," says Farah, founder of WND. "In fact, they are overwhelming in their number and their exactitude. I am persuaded God is trying to tell America something and Rabbi Cahn has found the key to unlocking the message."