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. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:7-8)
The early rains James speaks of are the autumn rains that soften and prepare the ground for sowing seed. The latter rains are the spring rains that mature and prepare the crops for harvest. The farmer knows how to wait because he has an expectation that there will be fruit and that the harvest will be well worth it.
For us, the “early rain” has come, two thousand years ago in a manger in Bethlehem. And the seed has been sown: the gospel of Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom of God has been preached to the nations. Now we wait for the “latter rain,” when King Jesus will return to gather in the harvest and set things right in the world.
James writes to scattered Jews who have embraced Jesus as Messiah and are following Him. They have faced many trials and have been mistreated. He encourages them to persevere through these difficulties (1:2-4) but also to endure them without grumbling or holding grudges, for Messiah is coming to judge and set everything in order (5:9). The patience James enjoins is not an idle waiting through long, dull periods but bearing through suffering and persecution with wisdom and maturity (see James 3:13-18) and without taking matters into their own hands, for the Lord Jesus will reveal to them the fullness of His mercy and compassion.
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:10-11 NIV)“Be patient,” James says, just as the farmer is who waits for the early and latter rains — there will be a joyful harvest at the end of it all when the Lord Jesus returns and the kingdom of God is in full fruit. “Establish your hearts,” he says, “for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” To be established in heart is to stand firm without wavering, not put off by difficulties. This requires a focused faith on the Lord Jesus, because faith creates a positive expectation for the final outcome, and with that we can bear patiently and endure.
We live between the early and latter rains in this Advent season of the world, waiting for the fulfillment of what was begun at Christmas. Though there are many difficulties and persecutions the innocent and the righteous are presently suffering, the Lord will come and the harvest He brings will be exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine.