What God Longs For

Posted on January 26, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Grieving God
Christians generally don’t think of God as “longing.” After all, all things belong to Him, don’t they?

Yes, they do, but this does not mean all things are as God wants them. Of course, the time is coming – eternity – when they will be, but for now, things are not. Most notably, that which is not as God wants it is the obedience of the human race.

The vast majority of people do not worship and/or believe in God. And those who do are too often disobedient to Him. We believers bring quite a bit of grief to God’s heart when we disobey Him, and we need to do better.

Another group of people which brings grief to God is Israel, His Chosen People, the majority of whom have rejected Him for centuries. We see plenty of Israel’s disregard for God in the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Isaiah.

For instance, in rebuking His Chosen People, God tells them in the very first chapter:

“Sons I have raised and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Oh, sinful nation, people weighed down with guilt, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.

A harsh rebuke!

Still Reaches Out
Yet, despite Israel’s sin, God still reaches out to them, as beautifully expressed in Isaiah 30:18: “… 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.”

Though this expression of love is directed at Israel, joined with other verses we can safely say such a longing on God’s part applies to ALL people. The Lord longs to be gracious to all people (at least at one time in their lives). The Lord longs to have compassion on all people. And He desires as well that all people will long for Him.

The Word ‘Longs’
The expression “the Lord longs” is translated differently. Both the NASB (used here) and NIV use the word “long,” while the KJV, ESV, and Holman use a form of the word “wait.”

There are at least two Hebrew words for “wait”: qavah and chakah. Both reflect a stronger sense of “mere” waiting (as for a bus, for instance), and indicate a more involved state of waiting. Isaiah 30:18 uses the latter word for “wait” – chakah – which can be translated as “to wait a long time for,” “to adhere to,” “to tarry.” In choosing the English phrase “longs for,” the translators of the NASB and NIV get at the heart of the word chakah, correctly communicating the intensity with which God waits for people to repent and turn to Him.

Considering God’s love for Israel, it is no wonder He does not merely wait for Israel to repent, but “longs” for them to do so, that He in turn may be gracious and compassionate to them.

Still Longing
God is still longing – not for Israel only, but for the human race. In Ezekiel 33:11, God declares: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”

Likewise, in the New Testament, God says: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for ALL to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis added).

In God’s patience, we can – based on Isaiah 30:18 – be certain that He is not just waiting for the inhabitants of Earth to turn from their sins and to Him, but is “longing” for them to do so. God is not some distant deity who has withdrawn from the doings of Earth millennia ago, but an active God of graciousness and love who intensely longs for ALL to be saved.

May more and more men and women come to understand that their Creator longs for them, and may they in return long for Him!