We are now in the season of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
Can you imagine this season some two millennia ago? The events of the week prior had been unbearably difficult as the followers of Yeshua went through a time of overwhelming confusion, sorrow, and then great fear. Their teacher and friend, whom they believed was the Messiah, had willfully subjected Himself to be seized, beaten, and then executed—crucified. Was He insane?
These trusted followers had laid everything on the line, and now their relationships, reputations, and very lives were hanging in the balance. The one they put their faith in was tragically overcome by ruling authorities, and rumors were that now the government was after them. Traumatized, forlorn, and depressed, they wondered if they could have been wrong about Him. Were they duped? Was Yeshua just another false Messiah?
Then, just as He said He would, Yeshua came to them from “the other side.” The Glorified and Triumphant Messiah overcame the grave and was once again present with them.
For the next 40 days, the astonished followers of Yeshua experienced the most powerful and unique revelatory experiences as the Risen, Son of God, poured into them mind-blowing biblical insight and astounding spiritual truths. Mysteries unfolded as manifold numbers of brothers and sisters were added to the community of believers. United and unwavering in their faith, there was no longer room for doubt. The proof was all around them. He was present, dwelling among them, building His Kingdom. And all of this was happening during the time known as “The Counting of the Omer.”
The Omer (Hebrew: עֹ֫מֶר ‘ōmer) is an ancient Israelite unit of dry measure used in the era of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is used in the Bible as an ancient unit of volume for grains and dry commodities. Sadly, the dramatic importance of Counting the Omer has been lost to the Church and in many ways to the Jewish community as well. The Christian Church knows practically nothing about it, and the significance of this time to the Jewish community has become just a rote tradition.
For Christians, it’s important to remember that the very days of Yeshua’s ministry on earth (after He rose from the dead) was 40 days, after which He gave explicit instructions for His followers to wait in Jerusalem for ten more days for the promise of the Father. The timing of these events is significant as this puts the disciples in Jerusalem on the day of Shavuot, 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits, the same day Christians call Pentecost.
Counting the Omer in ancient Biblical times occurred during the Spring wheat harvest. The first day of the harvest is marked by Bikkerim or the Feast of First Fruits. Bikkurim was a joyful time of offering God the first stalks of wheat that appeared from the ground some weeks before. These stalks were tagged as soon as they were noticed, and then, when it was time, they were the first to be pulled up (before all the rest) to be offered to God as His First Fruit offering. It was only after this offering the people were allowed to harvest the rest of their crop.
The instructions were to count 50 days then give an offering of new grain to the Lord. The wheat harvest would take about seven weeks to complete, so each day, a portion of grain was set aside to offer to the Lord 50 days later. Since an omer is about 2.2 liters – on the 50th day, about 108 liters of grain was given back to God.
The tradition of Counting the Omer comes from the book of Leviticus.
“Then you are to count from the morrow after the Shabbat, from the day that you brought the Omer of the wave offering, seven complete Shabbatot. Until the morrow after the seventh Shabbat, you are to count fifty days and then present a new grain offering to Adonai (Leviticus 23:15-16 TLV).
Yeshua explains the spiritual implications of this tradition in several ways.
Then he said to his talmidim, “The harvest is rich, but the workers are few. 38 Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers to gather in his harvest” (Matthew 9:37 CJB).
Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest’? Well, what I say to you is: open your eyes and look at the fields! They’re already ripe for harvest! (John 4:35 CJB).
Can you imagine the hustle and bustle of the city and the temple as pilgrims flowed in to give their baskets of wheat to the priests and then hurry back home to start the great harvest?
The spiritual magnitude that Yeshua was raised from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits is central to the feast and profound to the faith. He was the first to come out from the ground (that is, the grave). His resurrection on the Feast of First Fruits points to the promise that we, too, like the rest of the crop, will also be resurrected (or harvested) in the Great Resurrection at the End of Days.
The Counting of the Omer marks the time of the counting of souls. Yeshua was teaching His followers how to share the Good News of the Kingdom. He commanded them to go into the nations and tell all who would hear that the Gospel of the Kingdom was coming. The time that all will be resurrected and live with Him in Glory.
After 40 days, He left them but promised that God would send power to carry out the mandate of sharing the Good News of the Kingdom. Ten days later, while the followers waited, the Holy Spirit fell on them and equipped them with all they needed to be witnesses, even the ability to speak to the Jews from other nations in their own languages. (See Acts 1.)
We are now living in the Age of the Witnesses. And you, dear reader, are one of them! If you have received the Holy Spirit, you have all that you need to be an effective witness and worker of the harvest of souls. Ask the Lord to lead you and always to be prepared to share the Good News.
May we all be faithful to building the Kingdom so that we will be a complete grain offering resurrected into the Golden Age of Messiah at the End of the Age.