The Bible study focussed on James 5:7-8 tonight: “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

Whilst the only word I see in those verses is patient (it seems there is no escape for me from that word!), Mark looked at other aspects of these verses, namely the Lord’s coming (His parousia) and the rains mentioned (given as ‘former and latter rains’ in some older versions).

In particular, we looked at Joel 2:21-29, seeing how there were different kinds of rains: the former rains starting in October and bringing deluges to break up the soil; the latter rains in spring feeding the crops and ripening them prior to harvest. In these verses, we see the abundance and favour of God and how He is able to restore all that is barren and broken; we also see the abundance and favour of God in verses 28-29 as Joel talks about the outpouring of the Spirit. Jesus likened the Spirit to ‘streams of living water’ in John’s gospel, and we considered how God pours out blessing in abundance at the right time. Just as the former rains prepare the soil for the seed to be able to grow, so the Spirit works on our hearts to bring us to faith in Christ; the latter rains may be likened to the outpouring (or baptism) of the Spirit (see also Acts 2).

The patience required from the farmer, and from us, is not simply passivity. Paul had to remind the Thessalonians that whilst the coming of the Lord was imminent, this did not excuse them from the need to work! Similarly, our job is to sow the seed and to reap the harvest at the right times. We are entirely dependent on God to make the seed grow (and without the sunshine and rain, the farmer is powerless to harvest a good crop), but there is plenty of work to be done in His kingdom as we wait for His coming. Patience is associated with standing firm (vs 8), or as the NKJV puts it, ‘establish your hearts’. We need to be entirely surrendered to God and sure that He will do all He has promised. Joel is full of promises of what the Lord would do; some of these promises have not yet been fulfilled, but we can be sure that God is faithful to all He has promised.