Here in the Land of Lincoln, it’s been raining for days—the steady, soaking, pattering rain that falls in early spring just prior to everything bursting into bright green leaves and brilliant blooms. I used to begrudge the time that this season between seasons took away from spring, but now, I thank God for it. Once it stops, it may be the last soaking rain we get for months; so I say, let it pour!
During a study of the minor prophets, I discovered that (just as so much else that is common to mankind) this type of rain and others are even mentioned in Scripture, in the books of Joel and Hosea. The verse in Joel reads as follows:
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. – Joel 2:23
In the book of Joel, the Israelites had suffered several natural disasters, including drought, a plague of locusts, and fire. What a relief the promise of both the former and latter rain must have been to them! The former rain (the kind falling in my area right now) would ensure a good start for crops and gardens; and the latter rain would sustain them through the heat of summer. Both types of rain were key to the survival of the crops, and thus to the survival of the Israelites themselves.
Holding that thought for a moment, also consider that rain is often used as a metaphor in Scripture. In Hosea, God himself is compared to both the former and latter rain.
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. – Hosea 6:3
Without getting into Hosea’s heart-rending life story, let me just say that he did indeed, despite everything, “follow on to know the Lord.” As an Israelite, he knew well the disparate benefits of both the former and the latter rain, and comparing God to each would have been a tremendous comfort to his people. As the former rain, God would come to them after a time of dormancy and even death, to stimulate new life and fresh growth in their hearts and lives. As the latter rain, he would refresh and sustain them as they put down deeper roots and grew heavenward.
But—and there’s a big BUT—God could only fulfill that promise if the Israelites would repent of their idolatry or other sin and turn back to God.
And of course, the same applies to us. May we stay vigilant each day to repent of our sin and open our hearts to God, so all that rain can pour in.
What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods? Had you ever noticed before the description of the former and latter rain in Scripture? I’d love to hear from you.