Counting -God’s Way
By: Michael Peebles
Date: April 17, 2015
Once again, we are counting the omer. From the time the omer of barley is presented as an offering in first fruits, seven complete weeks are to be counted. The idea is stark as it is presented in its original grammar. “Usefartem lakhem – You count to yourselves” seven full weeks and a day, fifty days. The field of ideas is:
seven perfect weeks
to the day that ends the seven weeks
and one more day
to make up fifty individual days counted
This text is not saying, “after seven weeks have passed, note that it adds up to fifty days.” It calls for a reckoning to be done day by day. Further, (plural you) yourselves means it should be each household counting, as it were – this evokes an idea of a nation of witnesses all counting day by day for seven times seven days, plus a day. Counting year after year, from slavery to Sinai.
All this starts from being set apart and delivered, and from getting out – and leaving behind – the old yeast of iniquity. It goes each day, step by step, to bring out the fruit of redemption to a whole people. It originates with the mercy and lovingkindness of God, and requires truth, obedience, purity, forgiveness, and lovingkindness from those upon whom the redemption rests.
It takes time – both to complete, and to be (become) completed.
Now, when Kefa (Peter) comes up to Yeshua (Jesus) with his question, he is thinking, “When is the work of mercy complete? Is it after seven times?” (Seven is a number that is often associated with completion.)
It is as though he had said in his heart, “It is a hard thing to forgive, and still harder to forgive again. Clearly, one should merit something for being long-suffering and patient with his brother. If one could complete the process, there should be a reward. One who completes such an accounting will surely have accrued some blessing in the divine ledger.”
Perhaps his thought flowed something like this:
Seven is often a completion point.
What would it be like…
and what favor might one obtain…
in becoming one who could truly forgive…
completing and perfecting cycles of forgiveness…
with the whole heart…
In the counting of the omer, the count is seven times seven, plus one. It takes 50 days to complete. What if the Savior had said, “No, Peter, you must forgive seven times seven times, and even once more, in order to complete the work of forgiveness for your brother.” That would have been something he could connect with, and we see immediately how it would have stretched his thinking.
But, this is not what Yeshua said. Instead, he said, “seventy times seven”. 490. There are not that many days in a year. It is not possible to forgive day after day, offense after offense, and arrive at a completion in this accounting, because a new year comes before it is counted out. (I am aware that offenses could accrue more than once a day, and that it doesn’t say anything about resetting annually in the text. I still think case for impossibility is laid out partly along these lines by the “seventy times seven.”)
To reiterate the point, Yeshua gives a parable about a servant who accrues an impossible debt. Consider – did the servant borrow ten thousand talents in one step? No, the servant borrowed, and kept borrowing, at a rate that would support the household of a king. Then, when the matter is called to account, the king forgave all of it. Until the servant went out and treated his fellow servant improperly. Then he turned in his heart, and enforced the debt instead of forgiving it.
As we count the omer, let’s learn to count properly. Let’s remember what we are delivered from, and also do what we can to help others learn to count more perfectly.