The world is in a holding pattern right now. We are all counting down the days to when we can get on with life, when our focus can be on other things rather than infection rates, hospital capacity, and ventilator supply.

So we wait.

This time also commemorates another waiting, another counting down for both Jews and Christians. For Jews, it is known as the “Counting of the Omer,” it is the time between the First Fruit offering of the Passover celebration to Shavout, or Pentecost, 50 days later.

That day of Pentecost was the day the Law was given to Moses. We know that the day of Pentecost was also the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the day the evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit within each person was shown by flames of fire on the heads of believers. Evidence that the Spirit had moved from a Temple built by human hands[1] to indwell man.  It is through the cleansing of the blood of Jesus that we can have communion with God.

As I mentioned last week in our Bible study on First Fruits and the Resurrection, as well as on previous articles on First Fruits and Shavout, this connection is obscured in modern Judaism. They observe First Fruits on the second day of the Passover week rather than the day after the Sabbath of the week of Passover.

As you can see on a Jewish site that explains how to observe the counting of the omer, as well as its history . . . It changes the Scripture quoted to say it is the “eve of the second day of Pesach.[2]

The Torah itself dictates the counting of the seven weeks following Passover:

“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God (Leviticus 23:15-16).”

The text does not say the “second day of Pesach,” it refers to the day after the Sabbath . . . Sunday.

Leviticus 23:15 in Hebrew

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. (Leviticus 23:15 NASB)

You can read more about the reason for this discrepancy here. The only reason I point this out is that I’ve noticed that Christians often refer to modern Judaism to gain a greater understanding of the Second Temple Judaism during the time of Jesus. They are worlds apart. Very often those modern teachings obscure rather than illuminate.

A Time of Reset

This has been a time of reset for me. Every year  during the 50 days from Resurrection Sunday to the Sunday of Pentecost, I do my own “counting of the omer.”

As I mentioned in the First Fruits Bible study, that offering was to be of the first of our produce. It is an acknowledgment that everything we have, even things we might think of as coming from our own efforts, are due to the goodness and blessings of God.

I spend these 50 days reading through the Psalms, three Psalms a day for 50 days, beginning with Psalm 1, 51, and 101 and ending with Psalm 50, 100, and 150. It is a time to remember, that no matter what situation I am in or what the year has brought, that God is good and he is my sustainer.

Mental Health Bible Verses

In the years that I have been doing this, I’ve noticed a distinct change in my mental health during this time. I think of the book of Psalms as a sort of diary. Most written by David, he records his conversations with and praises to God in every sort of circumstance: lack, need, betrayal . . . every kind of crisis . . . as well as in the good times.

If you don’t know how to pray, this is the place to start. David cast all his cares upon God. (1 Peter 5:7) He wasn’t praying for show, he got real with God. That is why he was a “man after God’s own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14) not because he was perfect.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast All Your Cares Upon Him

We are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” (Romans 12:2) That is what this reading through the Psalms reading program does . . . It renews the mind. Whenever I am going through particularly stressful times and I notice my thoughts getting off track, this reading plan is my go-to.

Transforming the Mind Through Praise

If these days of plague have gotten you into a mental funk, spend the next 50  days reading through the Psalms in bite-size pieces.

I have several resources available.

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Reading through the Psalms Day 1: Psalms 1, 51, 101 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence and don't take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Psalm 51:10-12 http://raisedtowalk.org/r1 💓 Follow for Daily encouragement and Bible verse 💓 Share ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ #godsgotme #godhasaplan #thankyoujesus🙏 #blessed😇 #beencouraged #dailyprayer #thewordofgod #prayerchangesthings #readyourbible #gospeltruth #jesusculture #holybible #lordjesus #jesusismysavior #jesusisgod #biblequotes #dailybible #christianquotes #bibleverseoftheday #bibleversedaily #bibletruth #christianposts #scriptureoftheday #dailyscripture #letgoandletgod #letgoletgod #trustingod #christianliving #psalms #readingthroughthepsalms

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Transformation is a Process

This time is a reminder that transformation is a process. We agree with followers of Judaism in this regard. As the writer of the article on the Counting of the Omer explains:

While Passover celebrates the initial liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, Shavuot marks the culmination of the process of liberation, when the Jews became an autonomous community with their own laws and standards. Counting up to Shavuot reminds us of this process of moving from a slave mentality to a more liberated one.[3]

In Judaism, the onus is on us . . . We are responsible from moving from that slave mentality to one of freedom.

What a heavy burden!

The message of the Gospel . . . The Good News of Christ . . . Is that Jesus sets us free. We can have peace in him. Communion with his Holy Spirit is shalom. It is not our works or our power but the power of the Holy Spirit. God is greater than anything we tie ourselves down with.

We, too, writhe in agony,
but nothing comes of our suffering.
We have not given salvation to the earth,
nor brought life into the world.
But those who die in the LORD will live;
their bodies will rise again! (Isaiah 26:18-19 NLT)

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Romans 8:11

We are justified when we make Jesus the Lord of our life, but sanctification, the working out that salvation in our day-to-day lives is a process. We walk towards it step-by-step and day-by-day.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14 NLT

6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT

David knew his Savior. He was not only a warrior in battle but a warrior in praise. If you are battling your own Goliath of fear and discouragement, learn how to walk out of that valley by making the Psalms your praise.


Notes

[1] Yoma 39b, The Babylonian Talmud,  Judeo-Christian Research, n.d., accessed April 16, 2020, juchre.org/talmud/yoma/yoma2.htm#39b.

The Babylon Talmud records these evidences. After 30 AD,

“Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves.”

You can read more about the significance of these signs here  http://www.3dbibleproject.com/en/temple/details/evidence.htm

[2] Jill Jacobs, “How to Count the Omer,” My Jewish Learning, n.d., accessed April 16, 2020, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-count-the-omer/.

[3] Jill Jacobs, “How to Count the Omer,” My Jewish Learning, n.d., accessed April 16, 2020, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-count-the-omer/.