Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. - Isaiah 30:18
Did you know that God has desires? Desire, or in its more intense form, longing, shows the value we attach to something that we do not as yet possess. Of course, there is a kind of desire the Bible forbids us: covetousness, desiring something more than God. That is the sin Adam and Eve committed when they were willing to sacrifice their relationship with God for the forbidden fruit. Whenever we value a created thing above the Creator, it inevitably leads us to part ways with God when it comes down to a choice between Him and that thing. When God is heading in one direction and we choose to go another way, whether completely opposite or just slightly at an angle to His course, we naturally distance ourselves from Him over time.
God is moving, as it were, in a certain direction. That is, God is pursuing His goals, the objects of His desire. He sees the value of their existence, their transformation from imagination to reality, from possibility to actuality. Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) He desires good things, things that contribute to “righteousness, peace and joy” (the definition of His kingdom – Romans 14:17). In fact, as a loving heavenly Father, He desires the highest good and pursues the highest possible good for His children. But because we have the ability, which we all too frequently exercise, to obstruct the realization of His desires for our good, our cooperation with God is necessary for the desired outcome. Yes, God does work around our obstructions and can even use our obstructions to achieve His ends (Christ’s death on the cross being the prime example) but the optimal fulfillment of God’s plans for our good requires our cooperation.
Some might object that God is all-powerful and supremely sovereign and to say that our cooperation is necessary for the achievement of what God wants denies these facts. But this fails to take notice of another fact: God has given us the ability to freely choose between alternatives, even the alternative of doing or not doing what God wants us to do. That is why Jesus tells us to pray that God’s kingdom will come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). If God’s will is always done on earth then why pray for it? The prayer undeniably implies that, at least in some ways, God’s will is not being done by us and that God wants this to change. The Bible is full of God’s efforts to convince us that we should choose to do His will and cooperate with Him in His plans for good. If every event in the world is perfectly in accord with what God wants, why would He need to address us as though we had a choice in the matter? Why would God fault us for not doing His will if His will is always done?
Does this mean that the good God wishes to achieve is entirely dependent upon us? No, God knows the end from the beginning. He has declared that His purposes will be fulfilled. (Isaiah 46:9-10) He knows that enough cooperation from us will be forthcoming to accomplish that which He desires. But even that amount of cooperation will not take place without His persuasive power being brought to bear upon our minds. Yes, we can and do resist that power but not always and not all of us. God works with what He gets and, in the end, this will result in something absolutely breath-taking in its glory and goodness: the kingdom of God fully established in the mental, moral and material worlds! Of course, these abstract words do not at all do it justice but no words could ever do so. The prophets and apostles in the Bible have given us some descriptions of it, but even they confess it is beyond what the mind can conceive or words express. (1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 12:3-4) Its beginning is small, to be sure, like a mustard seed or a pinch of leaven (Matthew 13:31-33) but in its fullest development the present heaven and earth cannot contain it and a new creation must embody it (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1).
So, in the end, God will obtain what He wants and what He wants is glorious! It should be what we want also and inspire us to cooperate with God in its realization. It begins within, as Jesus said: “for the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21; not “among you” as some today translate it for the Greek word is entos and means “within” as a comparison with its use in Matthew 23:26 demonstrates). From its progress within us proceeds its progress among us as the kingdom is established within more and more people on earth. The fruit of it is forgiveness, reconciliation, love and cooperation with God and one another to fulfill His will. In the end, it will prevail over all other kingdoms, whether of men or of demons (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-10; Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Revelation 11:15). But let’s get back to the personal application.
God “longs” to be gracious to you and therefore “waits on high” until He can accomplish His compassionate plans for you. He is eager to realize the goodness He longs for you to have. But what is He waiting for? There are many conditions that must be met and it will take some time for them all to come into place but the ones over which you have the most personal control are your desires and decisions. To the degree you focus your attention on what God wants, He changes your wants. The problem is, with God out of mind, your desires are very feeble and limited. They are petty, selfish and short-sighted. But when you turn your attention to God and His truth and keep it there, then new and glorious longings germinate and take root within you, building strength over time as you nourish and protect them until they eventually produce the peaceable “fruit of righteousness” (James 3:18). As the psalmist says of the godly person: [H]is delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3) God’s law is His will and reflects His nature and character. No wonder the prophet exclaims, “How blessed are all those who long for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18)
So God does have desires and we are called to acquire the same desires and thus have the same purpose as God has. When we are thus united with Him in longing then our actions to coordinate with His will not be lacking. And when we begin to see what He wants to accomplish, we will joyfully join Him in working toward their fulfillment, even as our Savior did: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)