Fires rage about our home in Israel as I look out the window of our office where I now write. Across the country bonfires have been lit to celebrate a traditional holiday called Lag B’omer. Lag B’omer occurs on the 33rd day of the 49 day period known as “counting the omer.” (“Lag” derives from the numeric value of 33.)
Counting the omer is a biblical mandate prescribed in Leviticus 23. Lag B’omer, however, is nowhere to be found in God’s Word. To summarize, the holiday honors the founders of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah, most notably Rashbi (not to be confused with Rashi) and Rabbi Akiva. Their writings from the first century are said to have been spiritually inspired, but the source of that spiritual inspiration is highly questionable. More than a few Messianic and Christian believers discern strong anti-Messiah underpinnings in these metaphysical teachings. In any case, bonfires are lit by secular Israelis perhaps as pyromaniac fun — but by many ultra-Orthodox to remember or conjure up, consciously or unconsciously, mystical revelation apart from Scripture. So as I write I also pray, “Holy Spirit, let Your fire fall on Your people Israel!”
Apart from the dubious celebration of Lag B’omer, is there any significance today for Israel or the international Body of Messiah in counting the omer? Consider that during the counting of the omer the following events (which comprise only a partial list) occurred:
• Yeshua rose from the dead
• Yeshua revealed Himself in detail to His followers on the Emmaus Road and for 40 days
• Yeshua ascended to the Father
• Angels announced that Messiah would return in a manner similar to His ascent
• In 1948 Israel was officially reborn as a nation-state
• In 1967 Jerusalem was officially restored to Israel
Why the Countdown?
God instructed Israel to count the omer (Sefirat HaOmer) for 49 days, starting the day after Passover and continuing until the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). The Omniscient One did not explicitly tell us why to count the omer. But the Scriptures suggest these 49 days may possibly be designated as a time to prepare for fresh, gracious revelation from Heaven. (Of course, any time is a very good time for that!)
Allow me to share a bit of background on the omer itself. An omer was a unit of dry measure of grain roughly equal to half a gallon. The Bible mentions the omer primarily in Exodus 16, in connection with God’s provision of manna. Manna served as a tangible outpouring of physical sustenance. So when Israel was told to count the omer, the people would have likely associated this counting period with revival—at least physically. They would remember God as the One who lovingly poured out sustenance and supernatural power for His people to serve Him.
The word “omer” derives from the Hebrew root amar. Amar means to heap, press, squeeze, collect and bind together. Accordingly, the word is intrinsically associated with the act of harvesting. As manna was harvested for 40 years in the wilderness, after 49 days of counting the omer temple priests presented a wave offering of two loaves baked from freshly harvested grain. The wave offering was made on the Feast of Weeks or in Hebrew, Shavuot.
Most rabbis teach that it was on Shavuot God gave Israel the incomparable gift of His Holy Word, the law. On that day the Almighty stunningly revealed His glory and divine personality. He told us how to have restored relationship with Him. An epoch phase of Kingdom redemption burst on the scene at on Shavuot at Sinai.
Many years later Shavuot was taken to a new level on a day now called Pentecost. With the outpouring on Shavuot/Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, the Church was born, a new humanity consisting of Jew and Gentile as one in Messiah. Thus the next epoch phase of Kingdom redemption was revealed and released on earth. As with manna, there was an outpouring of revival — but this time in the spirit realm. As on Sinai, God provided the next level of supernatural power for His people to serve Him.
Counting the omer, therefore, is best understood as a countdown to a climactic intersection of heaven and earth. It can serve today as a spiritual discipline drawing us deeper into the heart of Yeshua.
Omer for Today?
Whether you are Jewish or Gentile, counting the omer can remind you that God can be counted on to pour out what you need. He will provide the means for you to serve Him in supernatural power. He can be counted on to revive you in body and spirit. If your response to His faithfulness is thanksgiving and praise, this not only gladdens His heart greatly, but postures you to receive even greater outpouring and revelation of Himself.
In counting the omer today, observant Jews seek to purify and prepare themselves for revelation of God through His Word on Shavuot. This is based on Exodus 19, where God told Israel to undertake specific preparations to meet Him at Sinai on the third day. It was perhaps in similar manner that the risen Messiah told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until He sent the “promise of My Father” and they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24). Previously He had told them, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). As the disciples prayerfully waited with pure hearts, like their ancestors at Sinai, they must have had great expectation for unprecedented revelation of God. Then came Pentecost!
So Holy Spirit, let Your fire fall on Israel, the Church and the nations. Purify us Your people as You prepare us for epoch Kingdom revelation and transition. Be our All in All in this final harvest countdown as we anticipate Your return and glorious Kingdom restoration.