Counting the Omer – Sefirat HaOmer

“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 Omer

Counting the Omer

Counting the weeks between the sheaf wave offering of the 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 children of Israel were redeemed by the blood of the lamb on Passover and the very next day, on the fifteenth day of month,  they began their Exodus out of  Egypt.  While they traveled from Egypt to Mount Sinai, God’s holy presence was with them in the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day.  They experienced His power as He molded them into His treasured possession.  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 Yahweh, their Provider, who rained down manna from heaven. An overabundance of quail that rotted and stank taught them not to grumble.  Following their Commander in Chief, they defeated the Amalekite armies.  Fifty days later, they stood at the foot of the mountain.  They had been transformed from slaves into a free people walking with God. They had been prepared to receive God’s teachings and 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).

Ruth and the Omer

“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 counting of the omer. Naomi was bitter because of all the pain she suffered in Moab with the death of her 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 imagined that within a mere fifty days her faithful daughter-in-law would be married to her kinsman redeemer.    She could never have envisioned as the sheaf of barely was being waved in Jerusalem on the day of Firstfruits that she would be the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king.  She could never have anticipated that by the beginning of the wheat harvest seven weeks later that with the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, one of her descendants would be the redeemer of all Israel. 

Yeshua and the Omer

“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 would end and the wheat harvest would begin. They would gather, thresh and clean grain to store in their barns for the next year.   For the disciples, this particular forty days of the omer were spent with their risen Lord, the final ten were spent waiting for the 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 Firstfruits. As the firstfruits sheaves of barley were being waved in the Temple,  Messiah ascended to his Father and became the firstfruits sheaf offering for those to 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 beginning of 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 it now.  Yeshua was alive and standing in front of them.  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 them 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 the resurrection of the dead.  He breathed on them the ‘breath of God’.  He anointed them with the same Spirit that proved that he and his Father are one, divine.    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 re-newed covenant to Israel.  As a nation, their sins would be forgiven and God would forget their lawless deeds (Jeremiah 31:34).   God began his harvest with individual sheaves of grain and salvation was going to be proclaimed by Yeshua’s disciples to his brothers and sisters one by one.   Moreover, the disciples had witnessed the power of the forgiveness of sins: the miracles of healing the sick and raising the dead.

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.  Though they did not recognize him, they did what he said.  The net filled with fish, 153 fish to be exact.  In Hebrew the numerical value of one hundred and fifty three means “I Am Yod Hey Vav Hey”. 

Throughout the 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).

The Fortieth Day

“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). 

Day forty 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 have two questions.  First, they want to know when the Kingdom would be restored to Israel.   It is obvious they understood that the Kingdom the Messiah establishes would be with Israel in the Promised Land.  Centuries of anti-semitism has distorted this understanding of the coming Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God will not be Roman Catholic, Evangelical Christian, Protestant, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or even Palestinian.  It will be established with the children of Israel and those who have joined the commonwealth of Israel.   

Second, they wanted to know the timing of the coming Kingdom.  Though the actual year of Yeshua’s return is only known by the 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 and the seasons, ‘appointed times’ mo’edim 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).

Though the disciples didn’t receive definitive answers to their questions, they learned that they were going to receive power.  The Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would be witnesses of Messiah in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  These words must have seemed incredible.  The message of salvation would go to the ends of the earth through their testimony? How could that be?

Then, Yeshua was taken up and 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).

Counting down 10, 9, 8 …

“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 weeks earlier, the disciples understood that Yeshua was instituting the new covenant through his blood.  This covenant was prophesied by Ezekiel, but  they didn’t know when the Spirit would arrive and change their hearts.  Now they did.  The only thing left to do was to obey Yeshua’s command to return to Jerusalem, wait for the coming promise and continue counting the last ten days of the omer.

©2014 Tent Stake Ministries (Chapter from Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.)

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