The Wait of Revival
"Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
"Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors. As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful" (James 5:7-11).
A Greek church father known as Clement, born about A.D. 150, informs us that James and his brother Jude were farmers. This explains why James so often uses illustrations from a farmer’s life. He speaks, for instance, of the rain of seedtime, and the rain of ripening harvest. The first fell in Judea about the middle of October, after the seed was sown, and the second toward the end of April, when the ears were filling and ripening for harvest. Without those two rains the earth would have been unfruitful.
The fact that "the latter rain" is yet to fall gives me great confidence in believing that the Church is yet to witness revival, before the husbandman returns for the precious fruit of the earth, even though the world will concurrently grow more wicked, defiant and deserving of judgment.
The Promise of God Concerning Revival
"The farmer…being patient…until [the earth] receives the early and the late rain." It is both interesting and instructive to observe that God has promised the "early and latter rain" in terms of physical fulfillment. When the children of Israel were about to enter the land of Canaan, God said through Moses: "I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil" (Deut. 11:1-14). It is clear from this passage, and a number of others, that the harvest was dependent upon the rain, and that the rain was promised by God, contingent upon obedience.
When the nation followed God, there was rain, harvest and plenty. When there was departure from the way of righteousness, then there was drought, famine and distress. We are all familiar with the story of Elijah who was commanded to pray that it might not rain, and we read in James, chapter five: "For three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit" (vv. 17-18). Thus God taught His people that His purpose for them was "the early and latter rain" – if only they would be obedient to His Word.
But what had been true in the physical life of God’s ancient people had been equally true in the spiritual life of all His people, Jew and Gentile. The promise of "early and latter rain" has a spiritual fulfillment – "The farmer waits…until [the earth] receives the early and the late rain." During Old Testament times the rain of revival fell again and again during periods of spiritual awakening and renewal throughout the history of the Jews. But when we come to the New Testament, it can be shown that Pentecost was the historical and spiritual commencement of the fall of the "early rain." Indeed, such was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in those days that in little more than thirty years the whole of the civilized world was evangelized for Christ and the ground prepared for the final harvest.
Since then the rain of blessing has not entirely ceased. Like the occasional showers that continue to fall from October through to the latter rain of April, in Palestine, there have been downpours of revival throughout the history of the Church. Particularly has it been so since the Reformation. But now we await the final outpouring, "the latter rain." It is evident from our text that this is going to precede the coming of the Lord and, therefore, coincide with the final harvest. The Lord Jesus explained in the parable of the tares that "the harvest is the end of the world" (Matt. 13:39-41). And then He will come with His sickle to reap the precious fruit of the earth (see Revelation 14:14-16).
If this is so, then before our Savior returns we must expect the promised rain of harvest. Oh that it might begin to fall soon! If we believe that God’s promise concerning the second advent of His Son must and will be fulfilled, we must also believe that He will honor His promise concerning "the latter rain" of revival.
The Purpose of God Concerning Revival
"The farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it." The purpose of God in revival is to hasten the day of the crowning harvest – "The farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth." The Holy Scriptures and the story of revivals show that the greatest harvesting periods in history have always coincided with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That there is a great harvest to reap is beyond dispute. The Master in His day said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:37-38); and again: "Do…not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest.’ I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest" (John 4:35).
If these words carried a sense of urgency about them two thousand years ago, what about today – with the shrinkage of the globe, the population explosion, and the advanced methods of communicating the gospel? The only lack, the vital lack, is the pouring out of the Spirit in revival. Without it, our efforts, however modern, scientific and advanced, are of little worth.
God’s purpose in revival is to hasten the crowning harvest and also to hasten the day of the coming husbandman – "for the coming of the Lord is at hand." The Apostle Peter expresses the same thought when he exhorts believers to "look for and hasten the coming of the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12, marginal rendering).
It is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit in the believer to make him homesick for heaven. Paul puts it this way: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). The more the Holy Spirit fills and transforms us, the more we become like Jesus and long for heaven.
If the early rain is necessary for the germination of the seed, the latter rain is needful for fruit bearing. If the Church would only experience a season of revival, we would see transforming changes taking place with amazing rapidity.
The Patience of God Concerning Revival
"Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it…You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." The quality of patience is a divine virtue. The word signifies long-suffering and suggests brave endurance during affliction and the refusal to give way under it, even under pressure.
Patience is that holy self-restraint which enables the sufferer to refrain from hasty retaliation. Patience has nothing whatsoever to do with indifference, apathy or stoicism. Since God has promised and purposed revival, He patiently waits for it, regardless of circumstances in the world and conditions in the Church. The believer is to exercise similar patience. In fact, where there is no patience for revival there is no prayer for revival, and therefore no faith in God’s promise and purpose in revival. So James draws attention to the patience of God in order that the believer might emulate extended patience – "You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." God is patient; the Lord Jesus is patient; the Holy Spirit is patient; the prophets of old were patient. Concerning the latter, James says, "As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." There is hardly a prophet in the Old Testament who was not in some way an "example of suffering affliction and of patience." Stephen, in his defense before the religious leaders of his day, asked his accusers this question: "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" (Acts 7:52).
Jesus said: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12).
Perhaps the prophet that James had in mind, above all others, was Jeremiah – who later became known as the Prophet. Professor R.V.G. Tasker says of him:
"This hypersensitive, warmhearted patriot, compelled to proclaim a succession of divine messages to his countrymen that were unpopular because they were of necessity pessimistic, who was so sympathetic towards the sufferings of others, was himself beaten, put in the stocks, imprisoned in a dungeon, and thrown into a cistern by the very men whom he would gladly have saved if such salvation had been possible, from the doom that awaited them. His life was one of almost perpetual physical and spiritual suffering, yet his demeanor throughout was such that, of all the historical characters of the Old Testament, he was the one who most foreshadowed Him Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, and Who suffered for man’s salvation the physical and spiritual agony of the cross."
Then, of course, James mentions Job. The word "patience" used of him is not the same as the word employed in the previous verses. It is a term which implies "constancy and endurance." "No English word," writes F. J. A. Hort, "is quite strong enough to express the active courage and resolution here implied."
What a familiar story is Job’s record of constancy, endurance and steadfastness! To quote Professor Tasker once again:
"It is not so much the self-restraint of Job under affliction, leading him to be patient with others, that is here emphasized, for Job was very far from showing patience in this sense with his so-called comforters. What Job did, however, display in a marked degree was the determination to endure whatever might fall to his lot without losing faith in God. He believed even when he could not understand.
"When blow after blow had fallen upon him in rapid succession Job cried, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21). His reply to his wife when she invited him to curse God and die was, ‘Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ (Job 2:10). To ‘the physicians of no value’ (Job 13:4) who posed as his friends, his answer was, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’ (Job 13:15). He was convinced that his witness was in heaven and his record with the Most High (Job 16:19); and he knew that his Redeemer was alive (Job 19:25).
"The end of the Lord was the complete vindication of Job by his Maker. Not only were his material possessions and his worldly prosperity restored to him, but he was granted a fuller understanding of the mystery of the divine purpose, and a more direct experience of the majesty and sovereignty of Almighty God, and he became capable of a greater and deeper penitence. ‘I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear,’ he was able to cry, ‘but now mine eye seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:5-6). So it was that ‘the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning’ (Job 42:12). The God whose severity Job had for so long experienced, as his character was tested in the furnace of affliction, in the end showed Himself to be, in the words of the Psalmist quoted by James, very pitiful, and of tender mercy (Psalm 103:8)."
What a call to patience this is! But before we move from this point it is important that we should note the manner in which we are to emulate extended patience. James exhorts, "You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
The twofold secret of maintained patience is intercession and expectation. The word for "establish" in the Septuagint is the same as that which is used for bolstering or holding up of Moses’ hands (Ex. 17:12). Patience for revival can only be bolstered up by prayer. Then there is the spirit of expectation which should characterize every truly born-again soul, for the Apostle Peter reminds us that we are "begotten…unto a [living] hope" (1 Pet. 1:3). If we have that hope and believe God’s promise, we can patiently wait for the glorious fulfillments of revival and the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are to emulate extended patience – as seen in God Himself and as reproduced in the saints who have left us"an example of suffering and patience." But the patience of God is also designed to deprecate exhausted patience – "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door." The word "grudge" means to grumble, murmur, or complain. Under the pressure of opposition, persecution and tribulation we can soon exhaust our patience – unless we are drawing freely on the resources of God. At such times as these we fall victim to the sin and spirit of grumbling, murmuring and complaining. We blame God for not answering our prayers for revival, and then we criticize one another for being hindrances to blessing, without recognizing that we are under condemnation ourselves. The Word says that to grumble is to be condemned. Let us never forget that "the Judge is standing at the door." He hears and knows everything; and when He comes He will judge everything. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body" (2 Cor. 5:10).
Let us see to it then that we never exhaust our patience and become a grumbling people. For unbelief and grumbling the children of Israel were all barred (save two men) from the promised land of blessing. It is possible to be bypassed by revival even when it comes. God save us from such a tragedy!
So we have observed that "the latter rain" of revival suggests to us the promise, purpose and patience of God concerning revival. O that we might be given the patience for the latter rain of revival!
From the book Lord, Open the Heavens! A Heart-Cry for Revival, by Stephen F. Olford. Originally published by Harold Shaw Publishers. Copyright 1986 by Stephen F. Olford. Used by permission.