As Passover approaches, Jewish families around the world will soon be cleaning the leaven from their homes and remembering how Adonai set them free from slavery in Egypt. With all the leaven removed, only unleavened bread—matzah—is allowed to be eaten. The matzah is a tangible sign and an ever-present memorial during this season, so that all the generations of Israel will know “what Adonai did for [them]” with His strong, mighty hand (Exodus 13:7-9). But for followers of the Messiah, this memorial also serves to remind us of an even greater freedom, while the command to remove the leaven reaches further and deeper.
Springtime on the Christian liturgical calendar is punctuated by a series of holy days, culminating in Easter—the celebration of the resurrection of Yeshua. Though many of the lesser-known annual events are not universally kept by Christians, the observance of Easter is easily the climax of the calendar. Recognized on a given Sunday every late March or April, this anniversary of the Messiah’s conquering of death represents the pinnacle of worship in the Church… but it wasn’t always this way.
[F]or everything that is revealed is Light. Therefore it says, “Awaken yourself, you who are sleeping, and arise out of the dead, and the Messiah will shine upon you.” Look diligently, then, at how you walk—not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:14-16, MJLT)
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He set in motion a perpetual cycle of seasonal changes. Mankind, then, responded to and lived closely in accordance with those changes—changes many of us can largely ignore today, as we shuttle ourselves from one climate-controlled building to the next. But before there was the Internet or cars or supermarkets, people had to truly labor for their food. Literally, we had to harvest our own grains and raise our own livestock, and the longest and hardest season for working was summertime. People didn’t take vacations or time off from work or school like they do today—they toiled in the fields, in the exhausting heat of the sun, to bring in the life-giving harvest.
The Fall mo’adiym (appointed times) arrive next month—all falling within the month of October this year. I wrote this teaching as an encouragement to you to take advantage of this season, and to use it as a reminder of both Yeshua’s sacrifice, and its ultimate result for all of us that believe. I hope you will be blessed by this “extraordinary story,” and that it will draw you closer to Him.
Just two short months ago, we joyfully celebrated Passover (Leviticus 23:5), the annual commemoration of Israel’s freedom from slavery, during which we as disciples of Messiah also celebrate our own personal freedom from sin—through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Yeshua. Then we began the week-long Feast of Matzah (“unleavened bread”; Leviticus 23:6-8), which memorializes how our ancestors left their oppressors in Egypt behind forever. It is also a period for practicing our own “unleavenedness,” and walking without sin—walking in the reality of who we are reborn to be in Messiah. After that, we began the seven-week journey of counting from the offering of the Omer (“sheaf”; Leviticus 23:9-15)—the time of year in Israel following the barley harvest, during which the wheat grows and matures to its fullness. It is during this season that we have the opportunity to observe our own growth and maturity—watching, waiting and working with God, as he moves us closer to becoming the true disciple He wants us to be.
Now that we have celebrated Pesach (the Feast of Passover), we have entered a special season of counting, laid out for Israel in Leviticus 23:10-16. Just after the feast, the sons of Israel are commanded to bring an omer to the priests. This omer is simply a sheaf—a bundle of grain from the beginning of the first crop. The priest waves the omer before Adonai as a “wave-offering,” so that the omer—and the entire harvest as well—will be accepted. Then, beginning with the day of the wave-offering, Israel counts 49 days, and on the 50th day—the Feast of Shavuot—a new offering is made from the wheat harvest. We can therefore infer that during the time of counting, the wheat crops are continuing to grow and ripen, but will be ready for harvest when the counting is complete. So the counting is a feature of Israel’s calendar that instructs her regarding the correct time to harvest and make an offering from the mature wheat crops.
For what renown is it for you if you are sinning, and then, being beaten with fists, you endure it? But if you endure, doing good and suffering for it, this is favorable with God. For you were called to this, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving Himself to you as an example, so that you may follow His steps—He who did not commit sin, nor was under-handedness found in his mouth… who Himself bore our sins in His body upon the tree, so that having died to the sins, we may live to the righteousness… (1Keifa 2:20-24, MJLT)
As we enter into the Passover season, we celebrate not only Israel’s salvation from captivity and oppression in Egypt, but also the individual salvation that this event ultimately foreshadows. During this annual time of commemorating our freedom from sin, we have a unique opportunity to refocus and to remember what Yeshua selflessly did on our behalf, and the consummate purpose to which He has called us. Unfortunately, this high calling—which is clearly spelled out by the emissary, Keifa—is essentially foreign to today’s modern Body of Messiah.
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.
The Fall appointed times (mo’adiym) for Israel are outlined in Leviticus 23:23-44. These special days cover a 22-day time period on Israel’s annual calendar.
The season begins on the first day of the seventh Hebrew month with what the Scriptures call Yom T’ruah (Numbers 29:1)—meaning Day of Loud Blasts of Sound. Though this day has traditionally become associated with the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn), and is considered in Judaism to be the new year (Rosh HaShanah), in Scripture, the sound of t’ruah can be made by many things—not the least of which are clashing cymbals (Psalm 150:5), and the shouting of people, as when the walls of Jericho fell (Joshua 6:5,20).