COUNTING UP TO REVELATION
Teach us to number/count our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Counting the fifty days from the second day of Passover to the Jubilee day of Pentecost, or Shavuot, is called Sefirat Ha’Omer – Counting the Omer. Two questions immediately spring to mind: “What is the Omer?” and “Why should we count it?” The Hebrew word omer literally means ‘measure.’ Biblically, it is associated with the offering of the first sheaf of the barley harvest in the Temple on the sixteenth day of Nissan, which is the second day of the festival of Passover.
And you shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven full weeks shall they be, counting fifty days to the morrow after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a cereal offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, as first fruits to the Lord (Leviticus 23:15-17).
The date of the Festival of Shavuot/Pentecost or Weeks is set according to this date. Forty-nine days, or seven weeks /shavuot, which gives the festival its name, are counted and Shavuot is celebrated on the fiftieth day. The Greek term related to the word fifty is pentekostei, from which we derive the English name Pentecost. These concepts – the “measure” of the omer, the counting of days, the symmetry of the weeks – instill within us an awareness of the balance, harmony and stability of God’s appointed times. Nothing is haphazard or insignificant. The biblical calendar is a measured walk through time that is made holy by His Presence with us.
The question remains, “Why should we, in our modern times, count the days between Passover and Pentecost?” We can find answers to the question on many levels. When, for example, we consider the agricultural cycle of the Land of Israel we see that this is the time between the first harvesting of the barley crop and the final grain harvest of the wheat. It is a critical time for the grain farmers; indeed for the nation, as bread is a staple food. Each day the growing crops are carefully checked, the weather is anxiously observed, the days to harvest are counted. If anything fails, a famine could ensue. How does this apply to us today, however? We can buy bread ready packaged, even sliced, every day!
Let us consider the important spiritual application Yeshua made regarding bread, when he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Y/H/V/H.”
At Passover the whole sheaf of the first-fruits of the harvest is waved as an offering to God, chaff and all! Passover is the season of Deliverance. We receive the gift of salvation from God’s mighty outstretched arm and, as those enslaved to sin, all we can bring before Him as an offering is ourselves, with the chaff of our sin and all! Then, we immediately set out on our journey of freedom and new life. Every day we learn something new. God draws us, with great longing, ever closer to Himself.
When the Israelites were redeemed from slavery in Egypt, they needed to be set free from an engrained slave mentality. After witnessing the miracles of God and proclaiming Him as their God and King, their passage from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai was a time of preparation. Their minds were being renewed in order that they might receive the great revelation of God that awaited them at the mountain. So it is with us. When we are redeemed from sin and death by our Father’s loving grace, through the perfect sacrifice of the blood of the Passover Lamb, we need a season of transformation – a renewing of our minds and hearts – before we can stand in the place of greater revelation of the glory of God. We must consciously move forward on our journey, covered by the cloud of His mercy, before we can stand at the Mount in the fire of His glory.
FIFTY DAYS OF PREPARATION
The walk from redemption to revelation is not a random wander. God is a God of purpose and order. His greatest gift to His children, after the gift of life, is the potential and the ability to change and to grow as we learn of Him and follow His ways. After his crucifixion and resurrection at Passover, Yeshua appeared to his disciples and taught them through forty days of the Omer. He then told them to wait in Jerusalem until Shavuot, when they would ascend the Mount of the House of God and would receive the “promise of the Father” that would empower them to do all they were called to do.
To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the Kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, saying, “…you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit, …you shall receive power when the Spirit of Holiness has come upon you” (Acts 1:3-5,8).
The disciples spent the days after Yeshua’s ascension waiting purposefully for the power that the Father had promised. We are told that they “…with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Power is a serious responsibility. A good parent, for example, will not give the keys of his or her car to an underage or untrained child. As we grow in knowledge and understanding through the study of His Word and walk in faith after the Shepherd of our souls, our Father enables us to more effectively exercise the power of His Spirit of holiness.
True freedom that has worth, reality and meaning is only found through the Word of God and the power of the Spirit of holiness given at Shavuot. At the first Pentecost on Mount Sinai, God gave His eternal Word, the Bread of Life, to His redeemed people through Moses and sealed it on two tablets of stone. At the Pentecost on Mount Zion, through His Word made flesh in Yeshua, the fire of the Holy Spirit rested on the disciples and sealed the Word in their hearts, and filled them with power to bear witness to the Risen Messiah.
Those redeemed, as a “new creation” in Messiah, are assured of two things on the journey of faith: (i) Yeshua is with us. He said, “…I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and (ii) our Father God has provided us with all we need for the journey. He has given us the map and instructions in fine detail in His Word, and the power, the comfort and the counsel of His Spirit of Holiness. It bears an awesome responsibility to realize that the same resurrection power by which God raised Yeshua from the grave is available to us, working in us and with us.
Counting the Omer, the significant days between Passover and Pentecost – Salvation and Revelation – reminds us that our journey of faith is a daily walk, and we must actively participate with our Father in it. He provides us with the “raw materials”, comparable to the sheaf of first fruits waved at Passover. At Shavuot, however, two freshly baked loaves of bread are waved as an offering. The production of loaves of bread that sustain life – the harvesting, winnowing, grinding, mixing, kneading, baking – requires man’s efforts. If we work with Him, we can joyfully offer our Father the “two fragrant loaves” of the fruit of our labor at Pentecost.
HOW TO COUNT THE OMER
Traditionally, the count of the day and the blessing is said in the evening, but if this is missed it can be done during the following daylight hours.
Blessing to recite:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu be’mitzvotav ve’tzivanu al Sefirat ha’Omer. Ha’yom, yom echad [sheni, shlishi…] ba’Omer.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us through Your commandments, and has commanded us to count the Omer.
Today is the first [second, third…etc.] day of the Omer.
It is advisable to print out calendar pages, or have a means of checking off the days as you count from the first evening through, the fiftieth day, when the festival of Shavuot is celebrated.
As our focus is centered upon the Scriptures, it is traditional to read through Psalm 119, a few verses a day, during the Counting of the Omer. The psalm is divided according to the 23 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the AlephBet. The Word of God is made up of combinations of the individual letters and each one is considered holy. This is also an opportune time, therefore, to study some Hebrew!
Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;
Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy Presence.
As we count the days in anticipation of the revelation of God at His appointed time this coming Pentecost, let us also meditate on the direction of our lives and the influence we are having on those our Father has placed in our path. May we allow Him to reveal the “chaff” that is stubbornly clinging to our lives that we may repent of it and release it. As we walk and work with the Lord through this season, may the Spirit of holiness give us “clean hands and a pure heart” that we may ascend the mountain of the Lord at Shavuot and receive all He longs to share with us (Psalm 24:3-5).
~ Keren Hannah