The Torah commanded the Israelites to bring the "sheaf of the first fruits" of the grain harvest to the Temple on the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. The first grain to ripen in the land of Israel is the barley crop. The harvest ritual of offering the first fruits of the barley harvest in the Temple is called the Day of the Omer. An omer (עמר) is a biblical unit of measure that indicates about one sheaf's worth of grain.
Coming immediately after the first day of the week of Unleavened Bread, the Day of the Omer is the anniversary of the Master's resurrection. According to the gospel of John, the Master suffered on the day of Passover. He remained in the tomb on the first day of Unleavened Bread and rose after the Sabbath: the day of the Omer.
Year after year, the day of the first fruits of the barley reminds us of the resurrection of Messiah, the "first fruits of those who are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
The day of the first fruits of the barley offering is day one of a forty-nine day count-off to the festival of Pentecost. Pentecost is the fiftieth day. The name Pentecost is derived from the Greek word for "fifty."
The Torah commands us to count each of the intervening days. The forty-nine-day count-off is called the "counting of the omer." During the forty-nine days of the omer count, the wheat crop in Israel ripened. By the end of the omer count, the crop was ready for harvest, and the first fruits of the wheat crop were offered as a bread offering in the Temple at Pentecost.
The days of the counting of the omer are an important part of the cycle of sanctification for believers. In Judaism, the forty-nine days of the counting of the omer are traditionally regarded as a time of spiritually shining up the soul in anticipation of Pentecost. In Messianic Judaism, the forty-nine days are extra special because they include the anniversary of the forty days that the risen Messiah was among His disciples; they include the anniversary of His ascension, and they culminate with the anniversary of the day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers. As we count our way through the forty-nine days, we are advancing along the cycle of sanctification.
Fifty days later comes the festival of Pentecost. It is called Pentecost because that is the Greek word for "fifty." Its Hebrew name is the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot, שבועות) because there are seven weeks of days between the beginning of Unleavened Bread and the festival of Pentecost.
According to Judaism, the day of Pentecost is the anniversary of the day God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. According to the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Master's resurrection.
We are all on a journey with our Creator. Our journeys are full of purpose and design. And, like all travelers, we make constant choices to move ahead, stand still, drift, or fall backwards. The seed of redemption planted in us at Passover has forty-nine days to grow and mature until the harvest of Pentecost. These days of counting provide a natural and timely opportunity to consider our path and make goals about our destinations.