As the children of Israel prepared to enter the promised land, Moses promised them that God would bless them in their new home, including providing the moisture needed to grow crops:
It shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
That 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.Deuteronomy 11:13-14
Many scholars believe that the first rain refers to the rain which falls in autumn, just after the Jewish New Year, and around the time of harvest. The latter rain refers to rain in the spring, critical for the growth of newly planted crops. (See the Commentaries on Deuteronomy 11:14 at biblehub.com.) This makes sense in light of the preceding phrase: God will give you rain in the appropriate season, when you need it.
The prophet Hosea may have had that promise in mind as he encouraged a later generation of Israelites not to give up on God’s promised blessings:
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
Hosea went on to tell the people, as Alma would later tell the Zoramites, that they should do the hard work of preparing their soil and planting seeds in their hearts, with confidence that God would help those seeds to grow:
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.Hosea 10:12 (compare Alma 32:28-43)
The prophet Joel also alluded to Moses’ promise as he encouraged his people to look to better times ahead. For Joel, the former rain represents blessings previously received, serving as evidence that blessings will surely come again:
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
Note that the confusing word “month” was added by the King James translators and is not in the original Hebrew. Most Bible translations say, “as before,” instead of “in the first month,” which fits the context better. (See parallel translations of Joel 2:23 on biblehub.com.)
In the New Testament, James also references this promise, as he encourages the people to wait patiently for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.James 5:7-8
We need rain, but we have no way of producing or controlling it. We may take it for granted until we experience a drought and realize how much we miss it. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi prayed for a famine, believing that it would cause the people to turn their hearts to God. After they repented, the Lord “caused that rain should fall upon the earth, insomuch that it did bring forth her fruit in the season of her fruit…. And behold, the people did rejoice and glorify God” (Helaman 11:17-18).
Later in the book, we read about a famine which had afflicted the Jaredites many years earlier. When the people “had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the earth…. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine” (Ether 9:35).
Here are the principles I’ve learned from these scriptural passages today:
- Rain is an excellent symbol and reminder of our dependence on God.
- The fact that we usually have sufficient rain is a manifestation of God’s love for us.
- Our memory of blessings received (the former rain) can give us hope as we wait for needed blessings in the future (the latter rain).
Today, I will be grateful for a God who loves us and who “sendeth rain” (Matthew 5:45). I will trust in His saving power and believe that He will continue to bless me as He has blessed me in the past.