“From the day after the Sabbath — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, until the day after the seventh Sabbath; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:15-16).
Counting the weeks between the Feast of Firstfruits of barley until the Firstfruits harvest of wheat is called Sefirat HaOmer meaning ‘counting the omer.’ The omer, also called a sheaf, is an ancient Temple period unit of dry measure equal to 1/10 ephah or about 3.7 quarts (3.5 liters) of grain.
Hiking the Omer
The Hebrews were redeemed by the blood of the lamb on Passover and the very next day on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they began their exodus out of Egypt. While they hiked from Egypt to Mount Sinai, Adonai’s holy presence was with them in the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. They experienced His power as He began molding them into His holy nation. They walked across the Red Sea on dry land and then watched Pharaoh’s army drown. They received living water from a Rock that followed them. They learned about the Sabbath and trusting Adonai who rained down manna from heaven. An overabundance of quail that rotted and stank taught them not to grumble. Following their commander in chief, Moses, they defeated the Amalekite armies. Fifty days later, they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai. They had been transformed from slaves into a free nation walking with Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. They had been prepared through the early wilderness experiences to receive God’s instructions that would set them apart as a holy nation and a kingdom of priests.
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6).
The Omer and Naomi and Ruth
“So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning” (Ruth 1:22).
When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, it was the beginning of the barley harvest and the start of ‘counting of the omer.’ Naomi was bitter because of all the pain she suffered in Moab with the death of her husband and sons. She had no vision or hope for the future. She had no idea how ‘counting the omer’ would transform her life. She could never have pictured that within a mere fifty days her faithful daughter-in-law would be married to her kinsman redeemer. She could never have imagined that soon after the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, she would be the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king. She could never have envisioned that as the sheaf of barley was being waved by the priests in Jerusalem on the Feast of Firstfruits that one of her descendants would be the Redeemer of Israel.
The Omer and Yeshua
“Let them both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest-time I will tell the reapers to collect the weeds first and tie them in bundles to be burned, but to gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30).
For the nation of Israel, the ‘days of the omer’ were a time of great anticipation. The barley harvest began and the wheat harvest would soon follow. They would gather, thresh, and clean grain to store for the next year. For the disciples, forty ‘days of the omer’ were spent with the risen Yeshua; the final ten they waited in Jerusalem for his promise.
“In the first book, I [Luke] wrote about everything Yeshua set out to do and teach, until the day when, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the emissaries whom he had chosen, he was taken up into heaven. After his death he showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. During a period of forty days they saw him, and he spoke with them about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).
On the first day of ‘counting the omer,’ Yeshua fulfilled the ‘appointed time’ of Feast of Firstfruits. As the Firstfruits sheaves of barley were being waved in the Temple, Yeshua ascended to his Father and became the Firstfruits sheaf offering for those who had been resurrected and those who would be resurrected at a later harvest.
“Yeshua said [to Mary], “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17).
That evening, at the start of the second day of ‘counting the omer,’ Yeshua miraculously appeared in a locked room where his disciples were hiding.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord”(John 20:19-20).
There was no denying the truth. Yeshua was alive and standing in front of the disciples. He had put his peace upon them and showed them his hands and feet. Their sorrow turned to joy. What would happen now?
“Shalom aleikhem!” Yeshua repeated. ‘Just as the Father sent me, I myself am also sending you.’ Having said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Ruach haKodesh! If you forgive someone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you hold them, they are held’” (John 20:21-23).
Yeshua was sending his disciples into the world as his Father had sent him. They weren’t to remain in hiding; they were to go out and be witnesses to his resurrection. He breathed on them the ‘breath of Adonai.’ He anointed them with the same Spirit that proved that he and his Father are One. He gave them the same authority that he had been given to preach the message of repentance and forgiveness.
Forgiveness of sins was an integral part of God’s promised renewed covenant with Israel. The disciples had already witnessed the power of the forgiveness through Yeshua healing the sick and raising the dead. Salvation was now going to be proclaimed by Yeshua’s disciples to ‘the lost sheep of the House of Israel,’ one by one (Matthew 15:24). Adonai began his Firstfruits harvest with individual sheaves of grain.
On the eighth day of counting the omer, Yeshua appeared to Thomas and showed him his scars.
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Yeshua came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’” (John 20:26-27).
On another day of ‘counting the omer,’ Yeshua appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. After fishing all night and catching nothing, Yeshua told them to throw their nets over the right side of the boat. They did not recognize him, but they did what he said. The net filled with fish ––153. In Hebrew, the numerical value of 153 means “I am yod-hey-vav-hey.“
During following days of ‘counting the omer,’ Yeshua appeared to more than 500 people, including James and the rest of the apostles.
“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles … (1 Corinthians 15:7-8).
“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:3-5).
The Fortieth Day of Omer
Day 40 of ‘counting the omer’ arrives.
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
The disciples ask Yeshua two questions. First, they want to know when the Kingdom would be restored to Israel. They obviously understand that the Kingdom the Messiah establishes would be with the Jewish people in Israel. Centuries of anti-semitism have distorted this understanding of Messianic Kingdom. The Kingdom of Messiah will not be Roman Catholic, Evangelical Christian, Protestant, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or even Palestinian. It will not be in the air, in Utah, in Turkey or China. The Kingdom will be established by Yeshua with the Jewish people and those gentiles who have joined the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ –– in Jerusalem.
Second, his disciples want to know the timing for the coming Kingdom. Though the actual year of Yeshua’s return is known only by his Father, there is an ‘appointed time’ established for his return. We are supposed to be children of the light, and according to 1 Thessalonians 5, we should know the ‘signs’ of his coming and the seasons –– the ’appointed times’ established by God.
“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:7-8).
The disciples didn’t receive definitive answers to their questions, but they learn that they are going to receive power. The Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would be witnesses of Yeshua in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. These words must have seemed incredible to these men who only 40 days earlier were hiding in fear! The gospel message of salvation –– Yeshua –– would go to the ends of the earth through their testimony? How could that be?
From the Mount of Olives, Yeshua was taken up into heaven in front of them. Hidden in a cloud, they could no longer see him. As they stared into the sky, two men dressed in white appeared and told them that Yeshua would return in the clouds the same way he left.
“After saying this, he was taken up before their eyes; and a cloud hid him from their sight. As they were staring into the sky after him, suddenly they saw two men dressed in white standing next to them. The men said, ‘You Galileans! Why are you standing, staring into space? This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-10).
The Final Days of Omer
“If you love me, you will keep my commands; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever. The world cannot receive him, because it neither sees nor knows him. You know him, because he is staying with you and will be united with you. I will not leave you orphans — I am coming to you” (John 14:15-17).
At Passover six weeks earlier, Yeshua instituted the the new covenant through his broken body and blood. This covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, promised that the Spirit of Adonai would change their hearts. They obeyed Yeshua’s command to return to Jerusalem and waited for the promise. They waited for him to fulfill another ‘appointed time.’
They continued ‘counting the omer’ –– ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one ….
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