“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” ~ King Solomon (Proverbs 25:2)
I believe there are mysteries that can only be understood by understanding the Biblical festivals and festival language.
“Counting the Omer” is done the forty-nine days between the Biblical Festivals of Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost). (Counting of the Omer 2019 began the evening of April 20 and will end the evening of June 8.)
You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days… (Leviticus 23:15-16)
On the Festival of Firstfruits (Aviv 17) the priests would wave a sheaf of grain (known as an omer) before the Lord. This was waved in different directions to demonstrate God’s all-encompassing presence. (Jesus was resurrected on the Festival of Firstfruits.)
After the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E., the Omer wave offering was no longer observed. However, the practice of counting the Omer continued and is still observed by many Jews today. There is a prescribed ritual for counting the Omer. Each evening of the 49 day period, a special blessing is recited, a psalm is read, and there is a special prayer.
The Counting of the Omer links the Deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt and the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. (These dates parallel Jesus’ death and resurrection and Pentecost approximately 1400 years later.)
After leaving Egypt on Passover, the Children of Israel went through the Red Sea on Aviv 17 and then traveled 47 days to Mt. Sinai, where God told them to consecrate themselves because He would speak to them in three days.The entire people (estimated at two to three million) heard God speak on that mountain. He didn’t just appear to Moses in private. It was a national revelation. It is written that the whole world heard in their own language!
Pentecost (Acts 2) occurred on the same date approximately 1,400 years later. In Greek, Pentecost means “50,” which can represent liberty, freedom, or deliverance. Every 50th year in Israel was called the “Year of Jubilee.” Slaves were set free and debts were cancelled. Liberty was proclaimed throughout the land by the sound of the Jubilee trumpets. (Leviticus 25:8-17)
After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples for 40 days, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. After 40 days, He ascended back to the Father. Ten days later, the disciples were together in the upper room when the “Day of Pentecost” was fully come. We see many parallels to what happened on Mt. Sinai and what happened on Pentecost. At both occasions, on Sinai and in Jerusalem, there were similar supernatural manifestations: a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire, and everyone heard the message in their own language.
A New Covenant
After the Giving of the Law, the Bible states that 3,000 of the Children of Israel were slain for their sin of worshipping the golden calf. (Exodus 32:28) After Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel and 3,000 were saved. (Acts 2:38-41)
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for THE LETTER KILLS, but the SPIRIT GIVES LIFE. (2 Corinthians 3:6)
The Lord declares that He will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and He will put the law in their minds and write it on their hearts. (Jeremiah 31:31-33) The ministry that Jesus received is superior to the old as it is founded on better promises. We are told in Hebrews 8:6-13, that the first covenant has now been made obsolete. The dictionary definition of obsolete is “no longer in use.”
In Galatians 4, the Apostle Paul likens the two covenants to Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was born by the slave woman, Hagar, and is likened to Mount Sinai and the Old Covenant. Isaac was born by the free woman, Sarah, and is likened to the New Jerusalem and the New Covenant. Isaac, the child of promise and representative of the New Covenant, was born at the “set time” on the same date that both covenants were given! (Genesis 17:21; The Book of Jubilees 16:1318)
Modern Day Celebration
The Omer is counted every evening from the second night of Passover until the night before Shavuot. Approximately thirty minutes after sundown, the one who is counting the Omer recites this blessing: Baruch atah A-donai E-loheinu Melekh Ha-olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al S’firat Ha-omer. (Translation: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.”) Then he or she states the Omer-count in terms of both total days and weeks and days.
It is possible to make or purchase an “Omer-counter.” They range from decorative boxes with an interior scroll that shows each day’s count through a small opening; to posters in which each day’s count is recorded on a tear-off piece of paper; to calendars depicting all seven weeks and 49 days of the Omer. You can even get an “app” for your cell phone or computer!
Today the Festival of Shavuot is observed on the 6th of Sivan on the Hebraic calendar (May or June on our calendar.) The Jewish synagogue is decorated with greens and flowers because, according to tradition, the surrounding desert bloomed when God spoke at Mt. Sinai. Jews go to the synagogue to hear the reading of The Ten Commandments.
The Book of Ruth is also read publicly. According to Jewish history, King David was born and died on Shavuot and Ruth was his great-grandmother, who was a Gentile. The Book of Ruth is about the harvest.
On Shavuot, It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah (to atone for those who fell asleep at Sinai). Dairy foods are eaten, including ice cream, cheese blintzes, and cheesecake. There are different reasons for eating dairy foods. The numerical value for the Hebrew word for milk is 40 and it commemorates the 40 days that Moses spent on Sinai receiving the entire Torah. Also, the Promised Land was referred to as the land flowing with “milk and honey.”
A Very Important Lesson for Us Today
Lag B’Omer, is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer. It is a minor holiday. The Talmud records that it was the day a cruel plague ended.In the first century, the highly revered Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 disciples that died during this period of time. The Talmud teaches they were guilty of a lack of unity and not treating one another with respect.
This gives a whole new meaning to developing a culture of honor!
In Israel, on this date, campfires are built and people roast potatoes and sing songs.
Why Should We Count These Days?
Just as a child often counts the days until a special occasion, we should be counting the days to show our excitement for the upcoming festival of Shavuot (Pentecost).
Historically, it was a time of rebirth corporately.
The 49 days of the Counting of the Omer are a time of cleansing and purification and a time to go to a higher level spiritually.
We must also heed and remember the lesson of what happened to Rabbi Akiva’s disciples. We must look deep within and repent of not treating one another with honor and respect. Many will be disqualified, I believe, from operating in substantial spiritual power if they do not heed this lesson. .