First Fruits and Counting

The Feast of First Fruits 

The day following the sabbath during Passover is called the Feast of First Fruits Leviticus 23:10-11).

The Sheaf (Omer) of the First Fruit

agriculture barley barley field close up
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God commanded the people to offer the first sheaf of the harvest as a first fruits offering. (Leviticus 23:10). The Hebrew word for “sheaf” is omer. Exodus 16:36. An ephah is 10 omers of grain. Three times a year God commanded the people to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts of the Lord. Those Feasts are Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Each of these Feasts are associated with agricultural harvests. Each harvest the people were to bring an offering to the Lord, a First of the Fruit of that harvest. Passover is the barley harvest. Pentecost is the wheat harvest. The final harvest is the fruit harvest in the fall and brought as an offering at Tabernacles.

Leviticus 23:9-11 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath


The First Fruits of the harvest is a token offered up to the Lord. It is a tenth, a type of tithe offering. An ephah is just over 5 gallons, about 23 liters. An omer is 1/10th of an ephah. That makes an omer about the equivalent of half a gallon of liquid and about 6 cups of dry measure. This offering marks the beginning of the barley harvest. It is the first harvest of the year.

The sheaf of the first fruits points to the resurrection of Jesus. It also points to those who will be raised after Messiah’s millennial reign.

1 Cor 15:20 -23CJB
But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died.For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive.But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming;

Revelation 20:5-6 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

The counting of the Omer

The days between Passover and Pentecost were to be counted off. Pentecost is a Greek word which means fiftieth day. The Hebrew the word is Shavuot, which means weeks. The Feast of Weeks is celebrated seven weeks after Passover. According to tradition the days are counted leading up to Shavuot. It is referred to as the counting of the omer.

Leviticus 23:15-17 From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord.

A count down or a counting up?

Counting each day is a reminder of the spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God at Sinai. For New Testament believers we also celebrate this day as the Holy Spirit coming with power upon the believers and the birth of the church.

The idea is not a count down but rather a counting up. Rather than saying there’s only 50 more days until Pentecost, or 4 more weeks until…, like we do at Christmas, the Omer is counted up. We say “this is day one of the Omer,” then Day Two, etc. It is as if the days are collecting until we get to fifty. Each day builds on the previous. Instead of eliminating days like a New Year’s Eve countdown, we collect them until we have all the days gathered together.

Quote from: Judaism 101 Every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavu’ot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the omer in both weeks and days. So on the 16th day, you would say “Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer.”

Looking forward to a Visitation from God

Acts 1:1-5 NASB The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus instructed His disciples to look forward to the day that was coming. He had already been visiting them throughout the Omer days leading up to Shavuot. On a number of occasions during the forty days after the Resurrection (The day after the Sabbath from Passover- Feast of First Fruits) Jesus appeared to the disciples. Jesus instructed them to be ready.

According to Acts 1:14 “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Acts 2:1 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”

They seem to be in a state of readiness. They were anxiously waiting for something to happen. They didn’t know that it would come on Shavuot. They only knew at some point the Holy Spirit was coming and they were going to be ready for it.

I don’t know if God is going to come with a major visitation on Pentecost or not. What I do know is that whether you call it Shavuot or Pentecost it is a day that is marked on God’s calendar. It is one of the Feasts of the Lord. And the days between now and then are a time of counting and collecting the days until the number is fully reached. When we get to fifty we celebrate. It is the day that God showed up on Sinai and gave the Hebrew people the Torah. I know that on the anniversary of that day God poured out His Spirit on the disciples and they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus said they would be. All I know is that collecting the days adds up to something wonderful.


How Some Observe the Counting of the Omer

According to Jewish mystics the period of the counting of the Omer is considered to be a time of introspection to prepare oneself for Shavuot. Each person is supposed to work on one’s inner characteristics through reflection and development of one aspect each day for the 49 days of the counting.

 

The seven attributes are: lovingkindness (chesed), strength/discipline/restraint (gevurah), beauty/harmony (tipheret), eternity/enduring (netzach), humility (Hod), bonding/foundation (yesod),and sovereignty (malchut).

Day One you would look at the lovingkindness of lovingkindness. Day two the strength or discipline of lovingkindness. Day three the harmony or beauty of lovingkindness. You take one attribute per week and meditate on the seven aspects of each of the seven attributes. This takes you through the seven weeks. This is done as preparation for meeting with God on Shavuot. 

Introspection can go sideways real quick if we tend to be hard critics of ourselves. I like to leave the inner inspection up the Holy Spirit. It’s His job to bring us into all truth. And when He does, it is always done in love and never condemnation. 

I do however believe that any time is a good time to get close to God. This pre-Pentecost, post-Passover preparation reminds me of the Stations of the Cross. The Catholics spend the forty days leading up to Easter in a time of fasting and repenting known as Lent. Each Friday during Lent, Catholics observe a special service for what is referred to as the Stations of the Cross. There are fourteen stages and a prayer which is spoken at each one.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane;
Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested;
Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin;
Jesus is denied by Peter;
Jesus is judged by Pilate;
Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns;
Jesus takes up his cross;
Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross;
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem;
Jesus is crucified;
Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief;
Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other;
Jesus dies on the cross; and
Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Pre or Post?

I’d like to say I am neither and both. Whether you prefer to fast and pray before Passover/Easter or you count the days leading up to Pentecost it’s up to you. Neither of these observances earns us brownie points with God. We can’t earn closeness with God. Closeness with God is developed through relationship. There are benefits as a result of developing intimacy with God. Intimacy is a product of relationship. The reward is greater intimacy. Righteousness, right standing with God is granted because of what Jesus did for us by taking our sin and dying in our stead on the cross. We don’t earn spirituality through intimacy. We gain relationship. We don’t get more spiritual. Being saved through faith by the free gift of God’s amazing grace is the only way we receive righteousness, right standing with God. We can’t work for something that is freely given. We can however enjoy the benefits of what is offered freely as we develop intimacy with God through spending time with Him.

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–

God loves you with an everlasting love.

Be Blessed


 

For those who may be interested in a little more info from Judaism 101

There was at one time a dispute as to when the counting should begin. The Pharisees believed that G-d gave Moses an oral Torah along with the written Torah, and according to that oral Torah the word “Shabbat” in Lev. 23:15 referred to the first day of Passover, which is a “Shabbat” in the sense that no work is permitted on the day (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are both referred to as “Shabbat” in this sense, though they cannot both occur on a Saturday in the same year; see Lev. 23:24 and 23:32; see also Lev. 23:39 the first and eighth days of Sukkot are called “Shabbat”). In this view, held by most Jews today, the counting begins on the second night of Passover, that is, the day after the non-working day of Passover. The Tzedukim (Sadducees) rejected the idea of an oral Torah and believed that the word “Shabbat” in Lev. 23:15 referred to the Shabbat of the week when Pesach began, so counting would always begin on a Saturday night during Passover. The Sadducees no longer exist; today, only a small sect call the Karaites follow this view.

 

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