Counting the Omer
Our Passover Gift to God
By Ari Sorko-Ram
During the Biblical year we encounter a very unique season called the “Counting of the Omer.” This season falls between the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost).
The Lord commanded the children of Israel to count the Omer for fifty days starting from Passover. On the fiftieth day they were to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost).
An Omer is a sheave. Counting the Omer is a very important principle and commandment in the Biblical calendar. Counting the Omer required fifty days of obedience. For fifty days the children of Israel were commanded by the Lord to do something. They were to do it every year. Obeying this law requires the longest continuous observance of any commandment in the Bible so we should take note of it. As I see it - if the Lord reminds us to do something every year for fifty days, there is surely something in this commandment very important for us to learn and experience.
It’s the season
The yearly counting of the Omer starts at Passover. The Passover is celebrated in the month of Nisan (March-April), the beginning of all months - the first Biblical month in the spring of the year. You might wonder why it is the first month - unlike January of the Gregorian calendar and September of the Orthodox Jewish calendar. The Bible calls Nisan the first month because it signifies the beginning of life as a free people. It was the month Israel gained her freedom and salvation out of Egypt physically.
Passover, when instituted, also foreshadowed the day when the Messiah would give His life on the cross and sacrifice Himself as the Passover Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. For the New Covenant believer, Nisan is the month when deliverance from spiritual Egypt was offered to” whosoever will.”
Becoming a free person is the beginning of everything. Until we are free, we aren’t able to fulfill our destiny. So, every year the Lord reminds us through His Word of this important day when we’re to begin counting fifty days. At the end of this period we celebrate Shavuot, also known as Pentecost (meaning fifty) or the Feast of Weeks. It is at this time when we begin to prepare for the harvest, having brought forth the first fruits and having dedicated them to the Lord.
It’s about Counting
So what do we do during these fifty days of Omer? The Lord commands us to count. The Omer is a measure of wheat or barley, and according to tradition the farmers would go out into the field on the first day after Passover and tag the visible buds - the first fruit of the field. It is important to know that I’m not talking about ten percent of the buds - what we call a tithe, but rather every single bud they spotted that first day after Passover in their fields.
Then for the next fifty days they counted. And it didn’t just mean one, two, three, four, five… It meant going out to the field every day, watering these first buds, pulling the weeds around them, tending them carefully, making sure that in fifty days these buds would grow into ripe fruit or
grains - the first fruits. Then the farmers would gather all of these marked buds and bring them to the Temple of the Lord - to present them as an offering unto the Lord at the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). God promised that if we brought these first fruits to Him as He said - He would then bless us with a bountiful harvest.
You may wonder where I am going with all this. Let’s look at some Scriptures - so that we can begin to understand the whole picture.
And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.
The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. [This is refering to those same buds that were carefully identified and tended.] You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
This commandment is written three times in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) - twice relating to how to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot and one declaring this as an unholy practice.
The English language is not as clear as the Hebrew in this Scripture. The actual word in this Scripture is not “chalav,” the Hebrew word for milk, but “chalev” - that is, the fat that surrounds the vital organs. If you read some of the studies of the sacrificial system in the book of Leviticus, you will find out that this fat belongs to the Lord. (Leviticus 3:16,17; Exodus 29:13) It is to be burned on the altar.
At the time when the Lord gave the Law to the children of Israel, pagans in the land would actually take a young kid goat and boil it in the fat that was around the vital organs of its mother. They would then eat it, believing that they would be more fertile and multiply as a result. No need to say - it was a pagan idolatrous practice.
So God commanded us not to keep these pagan practices. Instead we’re commanded to bring our first fruits to Him. In other words, we are to invest our efforts into what God has given us. We are to safeguard His gifts, making sure they produce fruit which we then dedicate to Him and present them before Him. Then He will multiply them and bring forth a harvest.
Where am I as an individual in this process?
Let’s bring this down to a personal level. I think that if we can understand it personally, we can then understand it corporately and nationally. Every physical example has a spiritual and personal significance for our lives - how we plant, how we sow and how we harvest.
Psalm 139, verses 13-14 are some of the most encouraging verses in the entire Bible, because they tell me that I am not a mistake. None of us or any other human being on earth throughout history was born by accident. As humans we, of course, make mistakes in relationships, not always walking in Godly order. Sometimes children were not planned, but your birth was never a mistake.
In verses 13 and 14 King David is speaking to the Lord about this truth:
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
Let me paraphrase it in accordance with the language of today. What David basically says is,
“Lord, you met me in my mother’s womb, and you did an awesome job! You didn’t make a ‘jalopy,’ you made a ‘Mercedes Benz,’ a capable creation. So now I have great confidence
that I have a purpose and a destiny. But you didn’t stop there. You have imparted to me all the gifts that I need to fulfill my destiny. Furthermore, no one can take these gifts from me nor keep me from fulfilling my destiny that You gave to me except me.”
In verse 15 David continues,
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
What it says is - your birth is between you and the Lord. This is monumental! God the Father has met each one of us personally in our mother’s womb. What God essentially says is, “I’m dealing with you personally and secretly. It is between you and Me.”
Still, more is to come in verse 16:
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written…
God recorded it all in a book so that heaven and earth would not forget, and that the devil would also know. Every detail about you is recorded in this book - His book. All of your giftings, your talent - everything you have going for you. It is there, before you had problems and failures, before there were mistakes, before you were sick or whatever has happened to you. Your destiny has already been prepared and set before you by God Himself and you can attain it. So be encouraged!
The second part of verse 16 says,
…The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
Here is the dynamic situation. The Lord says, “I did this before you were born. I’ve already given you all the first fruit that you need - every talent.”
And then, from the day you were born God gives you a reminder every year, saying, “In the first month, on Passover, I want you to remember something - the great salvation I have given you.” And immediately after we remember our salvation and celebrate it, the very first day after Passover, God says, “Start counting your Omer. Tag every bud.”
What is a bud on a personal level? It is a gift that God has given you that has not yet developed. All the gifts that you receive from God are like the little buds. You have to take care of every gift and you have to nurture them to maturity. These gifts are like seeds that the Lord has planted in you, but it is your responsibility to tend to them, develop them, water them and pull weeds around them so they can grow.
It’s about character
What are the weeds in our life? Nothing will hinder the gifts God has given us more than a bad character or a bad attitude. Every year the Lord gives us fifty days to focus and work on these things. Of course, we want to be growing every day of our lives, but God puts an emphasis on developing our lives these fifty days a year. One of the ways to pull out the weeds of our character is to develop integrity in the smallest details of our lives and to study and focus on the fruit of the Spirit. If you will spend fifty days in the beginning of the Biblical year to renew development of your character, you will probably do well the rest of the year and see a harvest.
Jack Hayford, a well known pastor, when teaching on leadership, says, “When I look for somebody to work with or for me, I look for three things. The first is integrity. The second is integrity, and the third is integrity.”
We need to develop integrity; there are so many areas in our lives that require integrity so that the plans and purposes of God can work in our life. Then we need to water this virtue with prayer and develop it in practice with every test and opportunity that God allows to come our way.
Lord of the harvest
Taking care of the buds is just the first step. The Lord says that after the fifty days we are to collect all these gifts together with the effort we have put into them and dedicate them to Him. In return, if we do this every year, God promises us a harvest. All we have to do is what He tells us to do and invest what He has already given to us and we will be fruitful.
Our God, the Lord, is the Lord of the harvest. But who is the lord of the first fruits? You are! What you do with your first fruits will determine what God does with the harvest in your life. If you ignore your first fruit, God will ignore your harvest. You and I can influence God’s harvest in our lives. God will not meet our needs merely according to our needs. He will meet our needs according to His Word.
Remember the principle: the Lord is the Lord of the harvest, but you are lord of your first fruits. The Lord is the Lord of the harvest, but you determine what God will do with the harvest.
Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LOR D your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover], at the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost], and at the Feast of Tabernacles [Succoth]; and they shall not appear before the LOR D empty-handed.
The Lord specifically says that we need to have something in our hands to present before the Lord in order for His purposes to take root and blossom in our lives.
Verse 17 continues:
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LOR D your God which He has given you.
Where did the Lord give you this blessing? In the womb. God is not asking you to bring something you don’t have. You don’t have to give what somebody else has. It is not even about how much you give. It is about what you give, relative to what God has given you.
Grateful heart and more
What can I possibly give to God that He would want? First and foremost I offer Him gratitude for my salvation. A heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving is my first offering of sacrifice.
Every time I come to the House of the Lord to worship I experience my own “Passover” all over again. And what I bring before the Lord is the awe I feel when I think about how great my God is! How unfathomable is His love. Before I even knew Him, He dealt with my sin.
But this is not all. At least once a year I need to come before the Lord with the first fruits in my life.
The Lord gives me a period of fifty days during which I am to concentrate on what He has given me in order to realize His purpose for my life. I am to develop His gifts and dedicate them to Him. Until I dedicate what I have to God, He can’t do much with them. But as soon as I give Him my gifts and talents, the harvest begins. It’s not by power, nor by might, but by the Lord’s Spirit.
Then, when the last holiday of the yearly cycle - Succoth - the Feast of Tabernacles arrives in the fall, I will celebrate the harvest. But how can I have a harvest if I don’t bring my first fruits to the Lord? And obviously I can’t properly develop my first fruits if I am not walking in God’s free gift of salvation.
So, if you are walking in salvation, if you are grateful, if you invest your labor in your first fruits and if you dedicate them to the Lord, you will have a harvest.
You don’t have to be a theologian to be a good evangelist. You don’t have to be an agricultural
genius to be a good farmer. To harvest souls - just as a farmer harvests his crops - you need a basic understanding of the principles of the Kingdom, one of which is - if you do what God
asks, He will do what He promised. We give him our first fruits as a sign of our obedience - a gift that surely pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father. So on the first day after Passover, let’s start counting our own special and unique sheaves - our talents, gifts and skills - and watch the harvest come!