THE FORMER AND THE LATTER RAIN

AND GOD'S HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
THE HARVESTS OF PALESTINE In considering the biblical holy days, I'm sure we appreciate that God's sacred calendar is centred around the seasons and the harvests as they fall in the land of Palestine. In ancient Israel, there were two main harvest cycles. The average harvesting period was set at a period of seven weeks (Lev 23:15; Dt. 16:9), and the year's harvest was mostly gathered in before the autumnal equinox. An abundant harvest was a cause for great rejoicing (Is 9:3), and so God's three Festival seasons (Dt 16:16) were similarly tied to the harvest times of Israel. Barley, the first of the grains, from which came the Wave Sheaf Offering (Lev 23:10), was harvested in spring from March-April to May, coinciding with the Unleavened Bread season; wheat in late spring-early summer from May through to June-July, marking the time of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks; and the summer fruits-olives, dates, figs, grapes, and the like-from August to September, when the latter festivals culminating in the Feast of Tabernacles were commemorated. Ex 23:16 "and the Feast of Harvest [of the wheat: Ex 34:22], the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering [Tabernacles] at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field." Lev 23:39 'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the [summer] fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest.' Dt 16:13-15 "You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress [referring to the harvest of summer fruits]." The agricultural cycle of Palestine, with its two harvests-the smaller spring harvest and the greater autumn harvest-pictures the two major stages of the spiritual harvest of souls, the harvest of human beings into the Kingdom of God. It is this cycle that I would like to look at in some detail, and to consider how it applies spiritually to us today, especially as we draw near to the Day of Pentecost, the day of the firstfruits of God. As we go through this we will hopefully also be able to further clarify our understanding of some concepts we have been taught in the past. SYMBOLISM OF THE GRAINS AND HARVESTS Even in ancient Israel, the harvests were invested with a certain degree of symbolism. For instance:

A destroyed harvest represented affliction: Is 16:9-10 (NRSV) Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer for the vines of Sibmah; I drench you with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh; for the shout over your fruit harvest and your grain harvest has ceased. 10 Joy and gladness are taken away from the fruitful field; and in the vineyards no songs are sung, no shouts are raised; no treader treads out wine in the presses; the vintage-shout is hushed.

1

The "time of harvest" could also signify a time of judgement or destruction, as of the endtime Babylonian system: Jer 51:33 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor when it is time to thresh her; yet a little while and the time of her harvest will come." Joel 3:13 "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great." (cf. Rev 14:15)

The expression "the harvest is past" could also mean that the appointed time, perhaps the opportunity for repentance or deliverance, was gone Jer 8:20 "The harvest [perhaps referring to the first harvest of April-June] is past, the summer [and the gathering of fruit in August-September] is ended [that is, all the year's harvesting is completed!], and we are not saved!"

As well as the wheat and barley, other common grains included spelt (Ex. 9:32) and millet (Eze. 4:9). What is usually rendered as "corn" in the KJV is a general term used by the translators for any grain-and grain, too, carries its own symbolism.

It can be symbolic of judgment: Mt 3:11-12 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

And can also symbolize the glorified body of the resurrection: 1Co 15:35-38 (NRSV) 35 But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

The resurrection body is likened to seed which dies before it sprouts and grows. Then it appears in another form, a different form for every kind of seed (vv 35-38). The "body that is to be" is in essence the same as that of the body of the seed that dies. Wheat yields wheat: the essential character and identity continues on into the resurrection. In the Scriptures, the sowing, the physical planting of seed, and the reaping or harvesting of the grain or fruit are analogous to the spiritual harvest of God. Let us consider Christ's description of the Kingdom of God in these terms: Mk 4:26-29 And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed [but God does not sow indiscriminately; the ploughman follows immediately behind!] on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and

2

grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." It is a testimony to the power of the Gospel and to the work of the Holy Spirit that once the message of the Kingdom has been sown, a harvest will ultimately, according to the foreknowledge of God, be reaped. This is a call for inner peace, faithfulness and confident expectation on our part. We can also consider Christ's parable of the sower sowing seeds (Mt 13:1-9,18-23), where the lesson is that proper soil symbolizing the receptive heart (vv 16,23)-is essential for the full growth of the seed and for the success of the harvest of souls. In this parable, some soil is suitable, some is not. From Christ's parable of the tares and the wheat we learn that the spiritual harvest of the Kingdom can only be a perfectly pure crop: Mt 13:24-30 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares [probably darnel, believed by the rabbis to be corrupt wheat, which looks very much like wheat in its early stages of growth] also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' 29 But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them [suggesting both the difficulty of distinction between the two as well as the tendency of darnel to root itself more firmly than wheat]. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest [the time of judgment at the end of the age: Mt 13:39], and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'" In Mt 9:36-38,Christ tells us that the spiritual harvest, unlike the physical one, is always plentiful, and constantly in need of labourers to work its fields. Let us also notice His words in Jn 4:35-38 where He, then in a town of the Samaritans, appears to be alluding to a spiritual harvest which included some of these very Samaritans (Jn 4:39): Jn 4:35-38 "Do you [talking to His disciples] not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white [Mt 5:36: the spiritually-ripe grain is likened to grey hair] for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others [John the Baptist, Christ Himself] have labored, and you have entered into their labors." Christ had both sown seed and reaped an early harvest, as was to be fully evidenced by the Day of Pentecost. So while the seasons determine the physical harvest, the spiritual harvest of souls can ripen early, if the conditions are correct. RAINS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS For the crops to flourish, there is obviously a need for rain, both when the seed is planted as well as abundant rain just prior to the harvest. Palestine was a land dependent upon the yearly rains to

3

ensure an fruitful harvest and an ample food supply for the coming year. Rain "in due season" was one of the conditional promises of God for the people's obedience: Lev 26:4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. The crucial rain fell in two seasons: the early rains during September-November soon after the grain was sown, and the later rains in March and April, just prior to harvest. Of course there were the winter rains between November and December. This rain in due season is also vitally important in the bringing forth of the spiritual harvest. In the Scriptures, these vital two cycles of rain are called the "former" rain and the "latter" rain. We shall examine these shortly. However, let us first look at some of the symbolism of the rain. In the Old Testament, "rain" is often used figuratively:

An abundance of rain signified God's blessing upon His people: Dt 28:12 "The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow."

…whereas the lack of rain was a sign of His displeasure: Dt 28:23-24 "And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. 24 The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed."

God used rain as an instrument to teach and discipline Israel: Dt 11:17 "lest [in turning from God] the Lord's anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you."

King Solomon understood this principle: 1Ki 8:35-36 "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance."

The imagery of rain in abundance is also used to depict the righteousness of God: Isa 45:8 "Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the LORD, have created it."

God also likens His Word to the rain which waters the earth and brings forth fruit:

4

Isa 55:10-11 (NIV) As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. The Word of God accomplishes the righteous will of God. The apostle Paul quoted from this verse (in the Septuagint translation) as well as from Hos 10:12 (also the Septuagint rendering), which we will look at shortly, in reference to a spiritual harvest of righteousness: 2Co 9:10 (NIV) Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest [or "fruits"] of your righteousness. We shall go on to examine this harvest of righteousness. Let's first notice a few more examples of God's righteousness being likened to rain. Psalm 68 seems to be a processional song to celebrate the triumphant rulership of God. Part of it recalls God leading His people through the wilderness into the Promised Land. Let us notice verses 7-9: Ps 68:7-9 O God, when You went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, Sela 8 the earth shook; the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai [the mountain from which Christ spoke] itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. 9 You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, whereby You confirmed [the Hebrew can also mean "provided for"] Your inheritance, when it was weary. Yet we read of no rain during Israel's desert wanderings, nor at Mt. Sinai, even though thunder, lightning, thick clouds-which could, of course, have been accompanied by rain-and smoke are mentioned (Ex 19:16-18). God certainly "rained down" manna (Ps 78:24) and quail (Ps 78:27) to, in a sense, "refresh" His people physically, but the reference here seems to also be suggestive of the righteousness of God which is truly refreshing. When God acts on behalf of His people, righteousness is executed. We see this imagery of the rain painted again in the preamble to the Song of Deborah, which commemorated God's deliverance of the people from their enemies: Jdg 5:4-5 (NIV) "O LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. 5 The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel." Similarly in David's psalm of praise to God for his deliverance: Ps 18:9-11 (NRSV) He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. And in Solomon's description of a godly ruler who exercises this same type of righteousness: Ps 72:6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth. THE FORMER AND THE LATTER RAIN In ancient Palestine, the yearly seasons included these early-or "former"-and the later- or "latter"-rains as part of the rainy season from about October to March-April. The grain crops were therefore planted to grow in the rainy season. The former, or early rains came during Fall or

5

Autumn, in October-November, and from these rains came the first harvests of early spring when the farmers were able to enjoy the "firstfruits" of their crops. These early rains were important because they helped to germinate the seed which had already been sown. The latter rains came during spring, between February and March-April, and from these normally heavier rains the main crop harvests were gathered. These later rains therefore ensured that the crops-both the grain crops each year as well as the usual annual summer crops and fruits-would fully mature for harvest. God promised ancient Israel both these rains and, as we shall see, He likewise promises them to His elect saints: Dt 11:14 'then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain [barley, wheat, etc], your new wine, and your oil [two of the summer crops].' Notice that the "remnant of Jacob" who are described as triumphant and exercising power over their enemies (Mic 5:8-9) are also likened to light rain, or showers, reminiscent of the early, smaller rains which nourished the firstfruit crops: Mic 5:7 (NRSV) Then the remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples, shall be like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which do not depend upon people or wait for any mortal. However, it is important that we here note that while they of course contributed to the successful harvesting of the summer fruits, both the former autumnal rains and the latter spring rains primarily watered the firstfruits' crops-largely barley and wheat-which had been planted some time after the previous harvest festival of Tabernacles. Notions that we may therefore have had of the latter rains being solely millennial are not entirely accurate although, as we shall see, the effect of these rains impacted upon the summer harvests which typify the millennial age. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter quoted what had just taken place as being the fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by Joel. Let us now consider this: Acts 2:16-18 "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days [the prophecy is therefore to be fully completed in "the last days"], says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.'" But let us note what else must take place before the prophecy is completed: Acts 2:19-21 "'I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.'" This outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost therefore fulfilled the prophecy of Joel only in part. The heavenly signs of verse 20, taken from Joel 2:30-31, have yet to occur, and verse 21 must be totally realized. Let us turn to the original prophecy in the Book of Joel: Joel 2:28-29 "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days." Joel spoke prophetically of both a former and a latter rain:

6

Joel 2:23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you; the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. These events recorded in Acts 2 are but the early rain of the Spirit of God. Joel's prophecy of the "latter rain" is yet to be fulfilled, both is this age, the age of the Church, as well as into the age to come, as will be shown. JESUS CHRIST: THE "FORMER" RAIN Let us consider the NIV rendering of Joel 2:23: Joel 2:23 (NIV) Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains [Heb: moreh (H4175); from yarah (H3384); related to yoreh (H3138)] in righteousness [NRSV: "for your vindication"; the Hebrew can also mean "moderately"]. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The early autumnal rains are also described as having already been given to the people of God. The reference here is certainly to the first outpourings of the Holy Spirit epitomized by the Day of Pentecost of 30 AD. The NIV Study Bible footnote to the translation "autumn rains in righteousness" reads: "The religious sect at Qumran (which produced most of the Dead Sea Scrolls…) hailed their most revered teacher of the law, whom they called the "Teacher of Righteousness", as the fulfillment of this prophecy." This verse from Joel is related, through some apparently deliberate word play in the Hebrew, to a verse in the Book of Hosea: Hos 10:12 (NIV) Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers [Heb: yarah (H3384); related to yoreh (H3138): "sprinkling", or "autumnal showers"; yoreh is the active participle of yarah] righteousness on you. [the Hebrew can also be translated "until He comes to teach righteousness to you"] The Hebrew word for "autumn rain", moreh, can also mean "teacher". In conjunction with Hos 10:12, where the word is similarly associated with a word for "righteousness", it has been understood as part of the biblical basis for this "Teacher of Righteousness" (see F.F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1961, p. 94). The latter part of Joel 2:23 can therefore also read: "….and He has given you the Teacher for justification"-the Teacher through Whom comes the teaching of the Way of righteousness. In Joel 2:23, the KJV provides the marginal note "a teacher of righteousness according to righteousness" for its translation of "(He has given you) the former rain moderately" In Isa 41:2-4, the Persian king, Cyrus, is depicted as the instrument of God's righteousness. In Isa 42:1-7, Jesus Christ, the "Servant of the Lord", is the true Teacher of Righteousness (see Isa 2:3; Jn 3:2; 4:25), given to us by God, through Whom the Holy Spirit came upon the Church. Jesus Christ is the first crop of the spiritual harvest of God! THE LATTER RAIN But when is this "latter" rain? The apostle James speaks of both the former and the latter rain in connection with the return of Jesus Christ: Jas 5:7-8 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

7

early and latter rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Indeed, the prophecy of Joel, as we saw, provides the time-setting: Joel 2:30-1 [v28: "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…"] 30 "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD."-before the return of Christ! These earth-shaking events, as we know, are associated with the "Day of the LORD": Mt 24:29-30 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Rev 6:12-14 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. 13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. For Joel's prophecy to reach completion, a second outpouring of the Spirit of God-the rain of righteousness, in the form of these latter spring rains which bring the crop to maturity-must take place just prior to the return of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but the momentum begun by this will continue on into the Millennium to totally fulfill the prophecy: Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved [an absolute fulfillment is required]. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Let us again note Joel 2:23 and continue into verse 24, which portrays this imagery of the Millennial age: Joel 2:23-24 Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you; the former rain [or early autumnal rain], and the latter rain in the first month [the spring month of Abib]. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat [the firstfruits' crop], and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil [summer fruits symbolising the millennial period]. Joel 2:18-19,22 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. 19 The LORD will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I will send you grain [the firstfruits] and new wine and oil [from the summer fruits], and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations." 22 "Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; for the open pastures are springing up, and the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and the vine [the millennial crop] yield their strength." The Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God to come, is described as a land made up of both this early firstfruits' harvest as well as the millennial harvest that is reaped in the age to come: Dt 8:8 a land of wheat and barley [the firstfruits' harvest], of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey [the latter harvest]. RENEWED POWER OF THE SPIRIT? Just as the Word of God always fulfills His purpose, I'm sure that we understand, and the Day of

8

Pentecost in 30 AD so illustrates, that God never gives of His Spirit purposelessly; rather, He pours it out powerfully to fulfill His great Plan. What then is this future outpouring of the Spirit of God that is depicted by these latter rains? And just as these spring rains are unleashed more abundantly upon the land of Palestine than the earlier autumnal rains, can we expect an even greater work of the Spirit in and through the firstfruits of God prior to and during the period of the tribulation and the Day of the Lord immediately preceding Christ's return-a work that continues on into the Millennium and accelerates as the righteousness of God fills the earth? Let's recall some prophetic considerations:

Did not Jesus Christ tell His disciples that at a time of great persecution and earthly upheavals "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." (Mt 24:14) ? How significant is it that among the powers of the end-time two witnesses as they prophesy and terrify the entire earth is included the means to shut up the sky to prevent the rain from falling (Rev 11:5-6)-just as God did to punish the rebellious Israelites of old? Is the physical rain held back at precisely the time of a renewed outpouring of the latter spiritual rain upon the saints? Daniel tells us that during a period of desecration of what is holy the final Babylonian power will have cause to vent its fury against the people of God (Dan 11:30), a people who resist the evil of the system because "they know their God" (v 32). This is a time when "those who are wise"-those who really understand who God is-"will instruct many" (v 30). It is a period of purification, of refining (v 35), in preparation for the Kingdom to come. Are many of the saints brought to spiritual maturity through this experience? In addition to the completed number of the elect firstfruits of God-the 144,000-sealed by God, who have "kept themselves pure" (Rev 7:1-8; 14:1-5), there is an innumerable multitude who have come out of the Great Tribulation, purified by the Blood of Christ (Rev 7:9-17), who will also inherit the Kingdom. How and when did this massive throng of humanity receive the witness of the Gospel?

The outpouring of the Spirit of the early rain powerfully established the New Testament Church. Will we see the latter resurgence of the same Spirit complete the New Testament Church age and usher in the Kingdom of God-the perfected, bountiful harvest of firstfruits-with a similar display of power? The full effects of these latter rains of the righteousness and goodness of God do eventually impact upon the entire earth in the "last", or "latter" days. The people of God are affected by them: Hos 3:5 (NRSV) Afterward the Israelites shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days. As are all nations: Isa 2:2-3 (NIV) In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isa 61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in

9

it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. SOWING AND REAPING RIGHTEOUSNESS So as we see the Day of Pentecost, which so intimately involves us, rapidly drawing near, let us ask ourselves: What are we harvesting? Are we continuing to sow the seeds of righteousness so that we will also reap righteousness and be included among the glorified resurrected firstfruits of God? The parable of the talents teaches us that God expects much of His children, that He seeks, through the exercise of His Spirit in us, to reap righteousness above and beyond what He has initially given us: Mt 25:24-30 (NIV) "Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed [this was his own false perception of God as harsh and unfair]. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid [kept on hiding] your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 26 His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew [Christ is saying, "Is that what you think?"] that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then ["if that was indeed your concept of Me"], you should have [been even more diligent and] put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with [legal] interest [godly fruit ought to have been borne]. 28 Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" As we sow, what is the condition of the soil of our hearts, of our minds? Is there fallow, unploughed ground that needs to be broken up (Hos 10:12) before the seeds of righteousness can truly flourish? Jer 4:3 …Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Are we perhaps sowing among thorns, sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind (Hos 8:7)? Will we one day have cause to be ashamed of the harvest reaped in us, as was God's lament for His people because of their iniquity? Jer 12:13 "They have sown wheat but reaped thorns; they have put themselves to pain but do not profit. but be ashamed of your harvest because of the fierce anger of the LORD." Both what we sow and how we sow it will determine what we reap: Pr 22:8 He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow….(Job 4:8) Gal 6:7-9 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good [i.e., sowing righteousness], for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. The principle of 2Co 9:6-sowing sparingly and reaping sparingly-is applicable also to the seeds and the harvest of righteousness. Will we ask God for more of His Spirit of righteousness? After all, He promises His people "showers of blessing" in their due seasons (Eze 34:26)-when they are most appropriate, when we

10

need them most. Let's not be like Israel of old: Jer 5:24 (NRSV) They do not say in their hearts, "Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn [former] rain [that initial outpouring of the Spirit upon us, and Jesus Christ to teach us] and the spring [latter] rain [He can give us more abundantly of His Spirit if we ask Him], and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest [God will ensure that His harvest comes to fruition; perhaps the reference here is even to the seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost]." For our sins can cause God to withhold these rains of righteousness: Jer 5:25 (NRSV) Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have deprived you of good. Let us be sure to heed the admonition of the prophet Hosea: Hos 6:3 Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth. As surely as the autumnal rains, the earlier, gentler rains which so beautifully picture Jesus Christ and the firstfruits of the Spirit of God, revived and restored the earth and helped to establish the already planted seed, let us be sure that we allow Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit in us, to establish us in the path of righteousness. And like the latter spring rains which brought the physical crops to full maturity, let us ensure that we, too, are included in this harvest of righteousness which the upcoming Pentecost feast day so wonderfully pictures.

11