Question: "What can we learn from the farmer who waits for the early and latter rain (James 5:7)?"

Answer: James encourages his readers to action. One of the motivators for that action is their hope for the future. James illustrates the point, wanting us to learn from the farmer: “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, NKJV).

James encourages those who are undergoing difficult circumstances (James 1:3, 9) and chastises those who are living badly yet enjoying riches (James 1:10–11; 5:1–6). He exhorts his brethren to be patient until the coming of the Lord (James 5:7a). The injustices that are evident in a fallen world would not be fully resolved until then. So James wants people to learn and grow from their difficulties—and even rejoice in them. Enduring through trials and difficult circumstances will produce fruit in the lives of believers and help them persevere until what has been promised is delivered.

James illustrates the need for and payoff of patience by pointing to the farmer. The farmer has to work diligently in order to get ground prepared and seed planted. The farmer has to patiently wait for the early and latter rain—that is, the autumn and spring rains. Without either of those seasonal rains, the seed would not have healthy growth. The farmer depends upon the rains and cannot do anything to hasten them. The farmer must be patient throughout the entire process, all the while hopeful that there will be the proper rain and the growth that the rain supports. In that same way, we ought to be patiently looking for the coming of the Lord. We need to be patient. We also need to strengthen our hearts and be prepared, because His coming is imminent (James 5:8). James reminds His readers that the Judge is standing at the door (James 5:9).

Along with the illustration of the farmer, James offers other examples of patience. He speaks of the prophets who patiently waited on the Lord (James 5:10). He reminds of Job and the remarkable endurance that Job showed (James 5:11). Finally, James recounts how Elijah was patient and entreated the Lord and the Lord heard him (James 5:17–18). In this last example, we recognize that waiting patiently is not necessarily waiting passively. James encourages us to be prayerful (James 5:14–18).

Even as we are exhorted to patience, we need to be actively prayerful. As Paul exhorts the Thessalonian believers regarding the Lord’s imminent coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17) and the day of the Lord that would follow (1 Thessalonians 5), he encourages believers not to sleep but to be alert and sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6). As we prepare for coming final days, we should be always rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and always prayerful and thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18).

What James and Paul desire to see from their readers—from us—is that we have a similar mindset to the farmer, who is active and patiently looking forward to God’s work and the fulfilling of growth. Paul understands that the farmer is not only patient but is hard-working and ought to be the first to receive from his crops (2 Timothy 2:6). James knows there is much we can learn from the farmer who waits for the early and latter rain. That farmer trusts in God to provide and does everything in his power to ensure that the ground and seed are ready. Diligence, patience, and trust—these are things we can learn from the farmer who waits for the early and latter rain.