Wednesday, 4 September 2019
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. James 5:7
The word “Therefore” which begins this verse is given to sum up the things described in the previous section. In essence, “Since these things are this way…” From there James says, “be patient.”
The word signifies longsuffering. It is the type of patience which will only express itself in anger as the Lord directs, in a logical and reasonable way. It never responds in a quick-tempered, emotional way. Vincent’s Word Studies, citing earlier scholars says it is –
“…as a tumultuous welling up of the whole spirit; a mighty emotion which seizes and moves the whole inner man. Hence the restraint implied … is most correctly expressed by long-suffering, which is its usual rendering in the New Testament. It is a patient holding out under trial; a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially the passion of anger.”
With this type of attitude, James then says, “brethren.” The reason is two-fold. First, he is addressing believers, and secondly, he is contrasting them to those who would oppose them from the previous six verses. He then tells his readers how long they should be patient. It is “until the coming of the Lord.”
What this means is that as long as we walk in this life, and until this life ends with the Lord coming to His people – either through death, rapture, or second advent (depending on whichever applies), they are to continue to be longsuffering. Then, to give a concrete example of the idea, he next says, “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth.”
Israel which was formed under the Old Covenant was an agrarian society. They would perfectly understand James’ words. There was a cycle to life which could not be hurried, nor could it be changed through anxiety, frustration, or anger. The farmer lived by the cycle, and he learned to wait for it to come to its next anticipated stage. If bills were owed, and it was four months until the harvest, his anxiety would not change the situation. If he was owed money, and it was not yet harvesting time, his anger at his neighbor for being late on the agreed payment schedule would not change a thing.
The grain would be sown, the cycle of growth would begin, and it would eventually be time to reap the grain. During the entire cycle, he could only watch the process unfold and busy himself with other duties to keep himself and his family going. As the days turned to weeks and then into months, he would be “waiting patiently for it.”
As noted already, he could do nothing to change the cycle, and if he allowed anger at the slowness of the process to enter his soul, only he would suffer. It would show a truly unwise streak in him to be angry at something he had absolutely no control over. This is just as true with the events which occurred during the wait as it was with the time of the wait itself. And for each crop, this was “until it receives the early and latter rain.”
There are two rains which prevailed in the annual cycle of Israel. The early rain and the latter. They are also known as the autumnal and spring rains. The early (or autumnal) rains would come around October and November. They would last through February. The latter rains would come from March through April.
Vincent’s Word Studies notes of these rains –
“The early rain fell in October, November, and December, and extended into January and February. These rains do not come suddenly, but by degrees, so that the farmer can sow his wheat or barley. The rains are mostly from the west or southwest (Luke 12:54), continuing two or three days at a time, and falling mostly in the night. Then the wind shifts to the north or east, and fine weather ensues (Proverbs 25:23). The latter rains, which are much lighter, fall in March and April.”
This was how the cycle normally occurred. To have rain out of this cycle was considered miraculous and even a sign of divine displeasure. That is noted in 1 Samuel 12:16-18 –
“Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes: 17 Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the Lord, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking a king for yourselves.”
After the destruction of Israel by the Romans, and in the exile of the people of Israel, the land was so devastated that it actually changed this normal cycle, and for the next 2000 years, Albert Barnes notes –
“At the present time there are not any particular periods of rain, or successions of showers, which might be regarded as distinct rainy seasons. The whole period from October to March now constitutes only one continued rainy season, without any regularly intervening time of prolonged fair weather.”
In other words, the early and latter rains that governed the cycle of life in Israel ceased to occur. When the Romans came in to destroy, they cut down all the trees in the land for building siege-works. It is this which changed the climate so that the rains became irregular.
The land went into upheaval, and it became a desert in most places and unusable marshes in others. Everything became chaotic and unmanageable. However, with Israel returned to her land, the cycle has returned to that noted in Scripture. Since the Jewish people have returned, they have drained the swamps, cleared the land, and planted millions of trees. Because of this, the land now receives both the autumn and spring rains once again. The rains are predictable, the land is flourishing, and the farmer can again sow and reap.
Thus, James’ words are a prophetic clue to the return of the Lord. This will be seen in the coming verse. Paul speaks of this same type of patient attitude for believers during the church age –
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9
Life application: Compared to the Old Testament, there is not a great deal of predictive prophecy in the New. Most of it comes from Jesus’ words and from the book of Revelation. Along with these, there are a few passages in Acts and the Epistles which tell us about coming events. For the most part, James is not a book of prophecy, but his word here very well may be an indication of when the Lord’s coming is drawing near.
James tells his readers to be patient until the Lord’s coming. This is because Jesus isn’t going to return when we want, but only when the time of harvest has come. Are the return of the early and latter rains to Israel an indication that Jesus also will be coming soon?
If you want to know the times, there is no better place to look than to the land of Israel. As events there unfold, the stage is again being set for the people to take a prominent position in world events, culminating in a rebuilt temple, seven years of tribulation on earth, and climaxing in the glorious return of Jesus. Before these things happen though, the rapture will occur. Are you ready? Jesus is coming.
Lord God, You have set a prophetic marker into the stream of human history. It is an indication that the times are coming to their fulfillment, and that the return of our Lord is soon. Your word said that it would happen, and it has come about as You spoke. Israel has returned to her land. Surely the coming of the Lord is at hand! We wait with eager anticipation for that day. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.