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We Shall Come Rejoicing, Bringing in the Sheaves

Messianic teacher Kevin Williams invites us to look deeper at the countdown to Pentecost.

Of all 613 of God’s instructions in the Hebrew Scriptures, Leviticus 23:15 has got to be one of the easiest and least inconvenient. No work to perform, no offerings for the layperson. Just words.

“You shall count from the next day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed” (Leviticus 23:15).

Memorial Tablet and Omer Calendar by Baruch Zvi Ring (1904).
Image: Wikimedia Commons

It’s referred to as “Counting the Omer.” Immediately following Passover, observers count off the 49 days leading to Shavuot/Pentecost. Day 1, day 2 … day 49, Pentecost. Takes less than a minute per day. Again, this has to be among the easiest of the Most High’s instructions.

So what? What’s the big deal, who cares, and what’s the spiritual benefit for a Christian?

Benefit v. obedience is a good topic for a separate article, but let’s see how we can polish this biblical gem.

“My word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me void, but it will accomplish that which I please, and it will prosper in the thing I sent it to do” (Isaiah 55:11). For the Christian, that’s a healthy perspective, not just about Leviticus 23:15, but the entirety of the Bible.

Quick diversion to make a point. Jesus said, “Therefore, whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven …” (Matthew 5:19). Counting the Omer is, as I mentioned, ridiculously easy to do—perhaps one of the “least commandments,” which ought to say something right there. But I digress, Jesus goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Adultery, a weightier commandment, yes? Under the terms of the Law of Moses, pretty simple—don’t sleep around. But the Messiah brings it closer to home and lifts it out of the physical to reinforce the Torah and highlight its spiritual application. Just looking with lust renders you guilty, a transgressor of God’s instructions.

Ah, not so simple after all. In fact, everyone is guilty of breaking God’s instructions under this perspective. The commandment has gone from an act and something you do or do not do in the physical world and has been amplified into a much deeper, more profound application with spiritual consequences. Boy, this commandment really drives home how badly we need a Savior (see Galatians 3:24)!

So back to Counting the Omer. It’s easy to do. Incorporate it into daily devotions or some such and check off the box. Done.

Yea … but no. That would fulfill the physical act, but still misses the spiritual application.

God’s Word does not return to Him void. And in Matthew 5, Jesus shows example after example that the Torah—God’s instructions—are not merely a list of exercises. They have a point and yield spiritual consequences.

So what spiritual applications are there, might there be around the exercise of counting off 49 days?

Wheat sheaves
Image: Trish Steel/Wikimedia Commons

God instructs us to count the days—which should end all debate. God said it, that settles it. But humans have a natural disposition to resist being told to do anything, even when the Sovereign Most High, King of the Universe says, “This is a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations” (Leviticus 23:21).

But sometimes our thinking is askew. Inside we want to know “What’s in it for me?” Spiritually, this is lustful thinking. Following God is never about what you get, but what glory God receives from you. It’s about surrender and abandon, not rewards and gratification.

Counting the Omer is a very simple means by which to demonstrate that God is in charge, not you, and that you are committed to living a faithful life. This glorifies Yahweh.

As long as it is approached as just a box to check off, there is little to no personal investment. To what does the Omer count? Pentecost (aka Shavuot), the birthday of the Church. They are 49 days of anticipation, looking forward to one of God’s moadim—appointed times that commemorates the giving of the Torah and the giving of the Holy Spirit—two monumental spiritual events! The days of Omer can be anticipatory, a daily escalation of joyful anticipation.

If God instructs us to count these days, and we do, we can rest assured that—as far as this activity is concerned—we are in harmony with God’s word and will, and that is no small matter. In a world driven to distract, staying the course can be an accomplishment in its own right.

Certainly, this is the least we can do for one of the least of the commandments. Can we give God our least? Is He worth at least that?


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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2024

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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