The period on Israel’s calendar following Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread—the time in which we presently find ourselves—speaks powerfully to our identity in Messiah. And yet, this time is often overlooked and underutilized.
A Season of Counting
In Deuteronomy 16:9-10, Moses says, “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God….” According to Leviticus 23:10ff, a sheaf (Hebrew: omer) of grain (barley, actually) from the beginning of this harvest is to be waved before God as an offering shortly after Passover, thus marking the beginning of the counting period—the “counting from the Omer.” This forty-nine-day counting period leads directly into Israel’s summertime single-day feast—the Feast of Weeks (known in Hebrew as Shavuot)—which marks the beginning of the harvest for wheat.
Practically speaking, the counting from the offering of the Omer tells Israel exactly when the wheat harvest is to begin: seven weeks after the beginning of the barley harvest. So during the counting period, the wheat is being watched and tended—waiting for it to grow to maturity, so that it may become fully useful to the farmer.
Spiritually speaking, there is an important lesson here for believers in the Messiah.
Growth and Maturity
At Passover, we celebrate our freedom in Messiah—freedom from sin. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for a week we celebrate the reality of our unleavenedness in Messiah (1Corinthians 5:7). Then, during the counting from the Omer, we spend another seven weeks growing to maturity—watching and waiting as God grows the crops in our lives, being made ready for a useful harvest at Shavuot.
Indeed, this is exactly what happened following Yeshua’s final earthly Passover. During the counting from the Omer, Yeshua “appeared to [the disciples] over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), before eventually ascending to Heaven. At the conclusion of the counting period that year, on the Feast of Shavuot (Greek: Pentecost), the believers were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and through their testimony and the demonstration of God’s power, 3,000 Jewish souls were harvested that day (see Acts 2)! The disciples had grown to maturity, and their fruit was useful to God.
This should be a great encouragement to us, both for individual believers in Yeshua, and also for the Messianic Jewish movement: God is not through with us, and every year, the counting period can help us to measure our maturity for Him. Just as a tree is meant to bear new fruit and a field to yield new crops each year, so are we as disciples of Messiah to be ever growing and producing fruit that is good and useful to God.
Perhaps you’ve been in a rut for some time now. Maybe your walk with God has seemed mostly fruitless, and you have just been going through the motions year after year, without really seeing any movement in your relationship with or purpose in God. Well, the counting period is your annual opportunity for self-examination, and a time to reset your goals and intentions for how you desire to be fruitful for God over the next year. Perhaps you’re long overdue for some pruning, or your fallow ground just needs to be broken up. Whatever it is, God is waiting for you to grow to maturity, so that he can use you to bring forth a great harvest.
Preparing for the Harvest
This is my prayer for myself, my family, and for the ministry of MJMI. I can tell you that I am not letting this season pass me by, and I am taking a serious look at all these areas, to make sure that I am working with God—not against Him—for His purposes.
My friend, I have known the Master Yeshua for a long time, but if there’s one thing that this season always reminds me, it’s that no matter how long I’ve walked with Him, I still have a long way to go until I am fully “mature.” Let us keep our eyes fixed on the Master Yeshua, as we dedicate ourselves to growing to maturity in Him, loving Him and committing each of our steps to Him, until all of our days are at their end.