Dr. Phillip Brassfield
Ask any farmer, especially an ancient Jewish farmer, about harvesting crops, and his first thoughts will normally go to rain. For a farmer living in an agricultural economy, as was the case in ancient Israel, whose family and very lifestyle are dependent upon the harvest to survive, it is impossible to separate rain and the harvest. Without the one, you simply will not have the other. Consequently, when we study the Scripture, we hear a lot about rain, specifically, and most often about the former and the latter rain of Israel’s agricultural season. These two rains were not usually one-time downpours, but rather were identified by a season of increased moisture or rainy seasons. The farmer knew that sowing seed without moisture was futile. It takes water to germinate a seed.
The former rains, (sometimes called “early rains”), were the autumn rains that began in late October and continued through November until they surrendered to what is usually a dry, winter season. The former rains’ principle purpose was to prepare the ground for planting, to get sufficient moisture into the soil, so that the seed would germinate when it was time.
The latter rains, (sometimes called the “late rains”), were the summer rains that, if present, could greatly increase the yield of the crop and also caused the crop to ripen. This late rain, which came normally in June, was critical. This is why the Prophet Zachariah told Israel to pray for rain in the season of the latter rain.
Zachariah 10:1, Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone.
These rains would dramatically increase yield and quality. Therefore, quantity and quality were dependent on not the plant, particularly, but the rain. Getting the right amounts of rain at the right time was essential if you were to reap a great harvest.
Throughout the Scripture, the Holy Spirit is often associated with water, springs, and even rivers of living (fresh and moving) water. But the Holy Spirit and the favor of God are also associated with rain. Hosea 6:3, Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. When the rains came in their proper time and in abundance, the harvest would be great! We then can assume that when Jesus told His disciples that the harvest was plenteous, it was a result of an excellent season of rain, both the former in the fall and the latter in the summer.
Matthew 9:35-38, 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
It is also interesting that He mentions the fact that the harvest is plentiful, but that the laborers were few. Imagine that, a record-breaking harvest, every farmer’s dream, yet few laborers to get the job of harvesting the crop done.
By connecting these ideas (rain and abundant harvest), we can assume that when we ask God for rain, and He sends it, the result will be an abundance of harvest. This abundance of harvest translates to the need for laborers in the field, as was the case when Jesus told His disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest for help. So, as we pray for rain, we need to also ask for laborers and the tools needed to access and gather the harvest into the barns of the Kingdom.
What about today?
On the Day of Pentecost, the former, or early rains, came and began to prepare for the hearts of men the sowing of the seed of the Gospel. As the water of the Spirit found its way into the spiritual soil of desolate fields around the world, and the Gospel was sown, the crops of the Church began to grow.
Through fields of suffering and persecution, difficulty and sacrifice, as the Church has matured, we have now arrived in the season of the latter rains. It’s harvest time! As the Prophet Zachariah says, we should, “Ask the LORD for rain in the season of the latter rain.” We remember that according to the Scripture in Hosea, “He (God) will come to us in the latter rains.” And remember, the latter rains prepare the wheat for harvest and multiply the yield of the crop.