The period of time on the Biblical Calendar known as the Counting of the Omer is the 50 day period from the day after the regular weekly Sabbath which falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. In Christian circles this holiday is known as Pentecost but is little known beyond recognition as the day the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples and they spoke in tongues. But this Feast has great significance in the life and ministry of Jesus (Yeshua) and in the lives of his disciples including those of us who follow Him today. Yeshua was very active during this time teaching and preparing His disciple to go out into the world and preach the Gospel.
The fifty day count up to the Feast of Weeks is now complete. The forty-ninth day was a Sabbath, a day of rest and additional offerings and songs in the temple. The day ends at 3:00 p.m. with the Sabbath offering of two lambs on the altar. The altar is closed although the fire is kept burning throughout the night. The altar will be ready to receive new offerings at 9:00 a.m. the next morning when the priests will begin the Feast day with the daily offering of the lamb and the special offerings of the Feast. What did this day look like in Yeshua’s time? What events did they commemorate on this day?
Like all the feasts, the Feast of Weeks is a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. The Passover is when the Hebrews killed the lamb and put the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses as a sign of their allegiance to God. The firstborn of all the Egyptians died on this night. The Feast of Unleavened Bread remembers their flight from Egypt up through their ultimate deliverance through the Red Sea and the death of Pharaoh’s army in the sea. The Feast of Firstfruits is their exodus from Egypt itself taking with them the bones of Joseph leaving behind an empty tomb. The Feast of Weeks is the day the Israelites received the covenant at Mt. Sinai. God made His presence both known and obvious as a cloud and fire over the mountain. He declared the whole mountain holy or set apart to Him. Moses was the mediator between God the children of Israel. He runs up and down the mountain relaying words back and forth. God outlined His plan for them.
Exodus 19:5-6 NKJV 5 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
The children of Israel agreed to do all that God commanded them to do. Finally, the word comes down from God; He will appear before all the people.
Exodus 19:10-11 NKJV 10 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 "And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
On the morning of the third day, God came down on Mt. Sinai.
Exodus 19:16-17 NKJV 16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
After making sure that none of the people would approach too closely to the mountain, God spoke the words we call the Ten Commandments. The people trembled at the awesome display of God’s power. The Midrash, which is a commentary on the Torah, gives further details of the events at Mt. Sinai. The Midrash says that tongues of fire circled and touched all the people gathered at Mt. Sinai. It says that there were thunderings and lightnings plural because God’s voice came in all 70 languages of the nations but only Israel answered and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.”
Yeshua’s disciples knew all of this. They remembered Yeshua’s words that His blood is the covenant sacrifice that brings in the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah.
Luke 22:19-20 NKJV 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
Yeshua said that the New Covenant was ratified with His death. Jeremiah writes God’s terms for the new covenant. The terms are the same; but instead of having the Torah written on tablets of stones which can be forgotten, they are now written on each heart and in every mind of those who agree to the covenant.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV 31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law (Torah) in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
The Feast of Weeks is also the Feast of Firstfruits of the wheat harvest as well as other early fruits. It is connected to the Feast of Firstfruits of the barley harvest celebrated during the Feast of Unleavened Bread by the fifty days of the omer. Omer means a measure of grain. Each day during the Omer, one omer of new grain is offered on the altar. At the conclusion of the Omer, on the fiftieth day, pilgrims from all across Israel brought their firstfruit offerings. As the day dawned, a priest would walk out of Jerusalem and meet the pilgrims as they arrived calling out, “Rise and let us go up to Zion, to the house of the Lord our God.” They would proceed to sound of the flute, singing and dancing to the temple where, at 9:00 a.m., the service would begin. The high priest offers up two loaves of bread baked with the new grain waving them in every direction. By doing this, they acknowledged God’s provision and sovereignty over all the earth. Each pilgrim would bring his firstfruits offering with the required words as recorded in Deuteronomy. They were to testify that God redeemed them from Egypt, brought them into the Promised Land and is the source of all their blessings (Deut. 26:1-11). The streets of Jerusalem would be thronged with Pilgrims; according to the historian Josephus, two and half million Jewish pilgrims from all over the Roman world came up to Jerusalem for the Feasts as required by the commandment in the Torah (Exodus 34:23). All would be eager to get to the temple to watch the offerings.
The disciples who had spent every possible moment over the last ten days in the temple praising God would have been early arrivers. The anticipation is keen. They are ready to testify that Yeshua was crucified and rose again. At precisely 9:00, as the pilgrims enter the temple with their offerings and the high priest lifts the wave offering, the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples as tongues of fire matching precisely the description of God coming down on Mt. Sinai and speaking the word of the Torah.
Acts 2:1-4 NKJV 1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Luke tells us that, like the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, they were in one accord, in unity of purpose. The “sound” from heaven is not a mere sound but a roar like the thunderings at Mt. Sinai. They were in a “house.” The Greek word translated as house is “oykos”, the same word Yeshua uses when talking about the house of God in Matthew 12:4 and 21:13. Tongues of fire, like the lightnings at Mt. Sinai, fall on each disciple who is present. Luke goes on to tell us a multitude of devout Jews from every nation heard the roaring sound and the disciples praising God in their own language.
Acts 2:5-8 NKJV 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 "And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
Where would devout Jews, who have traveled a long distance to be in Jerusalem for this feast, be when the feast began? Where would one hundred twenty disciples be so that a multitude of people could hear them praising God? The word multitude means thousands! There is only one place where this could have taken place and this is at the temple!
Peter and the other eleven apostles stand up and address the multitude. The Holy Spirit literally came with fire upon each and every one of them. With the power and strength from the Holy Spirit, they testify that Yeshua is the Messiah! All of the Jews there are experiencing a reenactment of the time at Mt. Sinai! Peter concludes his discourse with the testimony of Yeshua’s resurrection.
Acts 2:32-36 NKJV 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Messiah)."
The people cry out in anguish, “What shall we do?” Why do they believe so readily? Because they have just experienced a reenactment of the events at Mt. Sinai when they had promised God that they would do all He commanded them. They were bringing their first fruits where they once again swear their allegiance to God acknowledging Him as sovereign just like they did at Mt. Sinai.
Peter tells them to repent. The Hebraic concept of repent is to turn back to God. Peter’s answer is to us as well as them.
Acts 2:38-39 NKJV 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Yeshua is still calling and continues to call until the time of the fall Feasts and His return. He returns at the end of another count of fifty; the Year of Jubilee. The proclamation of the Year of Jubilee on Yom Kippur is a proclamation of liberty to the captives and a proclamation of the day of vengeance of God. Until then, we have a mission to complete—to go into all nations and make disciples teaching them all of Yeshua’s words from Genesis to Revelation.
Shalom and be blessed
Dan and Brenda Cathcart
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