God Himself, the Unique II
God’s Righteous Disposition (Part Two)
Humanity Wins God’s Mercy and Tolerance Through Sincere Repentance
What follows is the biblical story of “God’s salvation of Nineveh.”
Jon 1:1–2 Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me.
Jon 3 And the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you. So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Jehovah. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do to them; and He did it not.
Jon 4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed to Jehovah, and said, I pray You, O Jehovah, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before to Tarshish: for I knew that You are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent You of the evil. Therefore now, O Jehovah, take, I beseech You, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said Jehovah, Do you well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And Jehovah God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even to death. Then said Jehovah, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
Synopsis of the Story of Nineveh
Although the story of “God’s salvation of Nineveh” is brief in length, it allows one to glimpse the other side of God’s righteous disposition. In order to understand exactly what that side consists of, we must return to the Scripture and review one of God’s acts which He carried out in the process of His work.
Let us first look at the beginning of this story: “Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me” (Jon 1:1–2). In this passage from the scriptures, we know that Jehovah God commanded Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh. Why did He order Jonah to go to this city? The Bible is very clear about this: The wickedness of the people inside this city had come before Jehovah God, and therefore He sent Jonah to proclaim to them what He intended to do. While there is nothing recorded telling us who Jonah was, this is, of course, unrelated to knowing God, and you therefore need not understand this man, Jonah. You need only know what God ordered Jonah to do and what God’s reasons were for doing such a thing.
Jehovah God’s Warning Reaches the Ninevites
Let us move on to the second passage, the third chapter of the Book of Jonah: “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” These are the words that God directly passed on to Jonah to tell the Ninevites, so of course, these are the words that Jehovah wished to say to the Ninevites. These words tell people that God began to abhor and hate the people of the city because their wickedness had come before His gaze, and so He wished to destroy this city. However, before God destroyed the city, He would make an announcement to the Ninevites, and at the same time, give them an opportunity to repent of their wickedness and start anew. This opportunity would last forty days, and no longer. In other words, if the people inside the city did not repent, admit their sins and prostrate themselves before Jehovah God within forty days, God would destroy the city as He had destroyed Sodom. This was what Jehovah God wished to tell the people of Nineveh. Clearly, this was no simple declaration. Not only did it convey Jehovah God’s anger, it also conveyed His attitude toward the Ninevites, while at the same time serving as a solemn warning to the people living inside the city. This warning told them that their wicked acts had earned them Jehovah God’s hatred and would soon bring them to the brink of their own annihilation. The life of every inhabitant of Nineveh was therefore in imminent peril.
The Stark Contrast Between Nineveh and Sodom’s Reaction to Jehovah God’s Warning
What does it mean to be overthrown? In colloquial terms, it means to no longer exist. But in what way? Who could overthrow an entire city? It would be impossible for man to perform such an act, of course. The people of Nineveh were no fools; as soon as they heard this proclamation, they got the idea. They knew that the proclamation had come from God, they knew that God was going to perform His work, and they knew that their wickedness had enraged Jehovah God and brought His anger down upon them, so that they would soon be destroyed along with their city. How did the people of the city behave after hearing Jehovah God’s warning? The Bible describes in specific detail how the people reacted, from the king down to the commoners. The following words were recorded in the Scriptures: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.”
After hearing Jehovah God’s proclamation, the people of Nineveh displayed an attitude utterly opposite to that of the people of Sodom—whereas the people of Sodom openly opposed God, proceeding from evil to evil, the Ninevites, after hearing these words, did not ignore the matter, and nor did they resist. Instead, they believed God and declared a fast. What does the word, “believed,” mean here? The word itself suggests faith and submission. If we use the Ninevites’ actual behavior to explain this word, it means that they believed God could and would do as He said, and that they were willing to repent. Did the people of Nineveh feel fear in the face of imminent disaster? It was their belief that put fear in their hearts. So, what can we use to prove the Ninevites’ belief and fear? It is as the Bible says: “… proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” This is to say that the Ninevites truly believed, and that from this belief came fear, which then led them to fast and don sackcloth. This is how they showed that they were beginning to repent. In utter contrast to the people of Sodom, not only did the Ninevites not oppose God, but they also clearly showed their repentance through their behavior and actions. Of course, this was something all the people of Nineveh did, not just the commoners—the king was no exception.
The Repentance of Nineveh’s King Wins Jehovah God’s Commendation
When the king of Nineveh heard this news, he arose from his throne, took off his robe, dressed himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes. He then proclaimed that no one in the city would be allowed to taste anything, and that no sheep, oxen or any other livestock would be allowed to graze or drink water. Man and livestock alike were to don sackcloth, and the people were to make earnest entreaties to God. The king also proclaimed that every one of them would turn away from their evil ways and forsake the violence in their hands. Judging from this series of actions, the king of Nineveh had true repentance in his heart. This series of actions he took—arising from his throne, casting off his king’s robe, wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes—tells people that the king of Nineveh was laying aside his royal status and donning sackcloth alongside the common people. This is to say that the king of Nineveh did not occupy his royal post to continue his evil way or the violence in his hands after hearing the announcement from Jehovah God; rather, he laid aside the authority he held and repented before Jehovah God. At this moment the king of Nineveh was not repenting as a king; he had come before God to repent and confess his sins as an ordinary subject of God. Moreover, he also told the entire city to repent and confess their sins before Jehovah God in the same manner as he had; additionally, he had a specific plan for how to do so, as seen in the scriptures: “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: … and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” As the city’s ruler, the king of Nineveh possessed supreme status and power, and could do anything he wished to. When faced with Jehovah God’s announcement, he could have ignored the matter or simply repented and confessed his sins alone; as for whether or not the people in the city chose to repent, he could have completely ignored the matter. However, the king of Nineveh did not do this at all. Not only did he arise from his throne, wear sackcloth and ashes and repent and confess his sins before Jehovah God, but he also ordered all people and livestock within the city to do the same. He even ordered the people to “cry mightily to God.” Through this series of actions, the king of Nineveh truly accomplished that which a ruler should. His series of actions is one that was difficult for any king in human history to achieve, and indeed, no other king achieved these things. These actions can be called unprecedented in human history, and they are worthy of being both commemorated and imitated by mankind. Since the dawn of man, every king had led his subjects to resist and oppose God. No one had ever led his subjects to entreat God to seek redemption for their wickedness, receive Jehovah God’s pardon and avoid imminent punishment. The king of Nineveh, however, was able to lead his subjects to turn to God, to leave their respective evil ways behind and abandon the violence in their hands. Furthermore, he was also able to put aside his throne, and in return, Jehovah God had a change of mind and felt regret, retracting His wrath and allowing the people of the city to survive, keeping them from destruction. The king’s actions can only be called a rare miracle in human history, and even a model example of corrupt humanity repenting and confessing their sins before God.
God Sees the Sincere Repentance Deep in the Ninevites’ Hearts
After hearing God’s declaration, the king of Nineveh and his subjects performed a series of actions. What was the nature of these actions and of their behavior? In other words, what was the essence of their conduct in its entirety? Why did they do what they did? In God’s eyes they had sincerely repented, not only because they had made earnest entreaties to God and confessed their sins before Him, but also because they had abandoned their wicked conduct. They acted in this way because after hearing God’s words, they were incredibly frightened and believed that He would do as He said. By fasting, wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes, they wished to express their willingness to reform their ways and refrain from wickedness, and they prayed to Jehovah God to restrain His anger, entreating Him to withdraw His decision and the catastrophe bearing down upon them. If we examine all of their behavior, we can see that they already understood that their previous wicked acts were detestable to Jehovah God, and we can see too that they understood the reason why He would soon destroy them. This is why they all wished to make a full repentance, to turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. In other words, once they became aware of Jehovah God’s declaration, each and every one of them felt fear in their hearts; they discontinued their wicked conduct and no longer committed those acts that were so detestable to Jehovah God. Additionally, they entreated Jehovah God to forgive their past sins and to not treat them according to their past actions. They were willing to never again engage in wickedness and to act according to Jehovah God’s instructions, if only it were possible to never again infuriate Jehovah God. Their repentance was sincere and thorough. It came from deep within their hearts and was unfeigned and intransient.
Once all of the people of Nineveh, from the king to the commoners, learned that Jehovah God was angry with them, God could clearly and plainly see every single one of their subsequent actions and their conduct in its entirety, as well as every one of the decisions and choices that they made. God’s heart changed according to their behavior. What was God’s frame of mind at that very moment? The Bible can answer that question for you. The following words were recorded in the scriptures: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do to them; and He did it not.” Although God changed His mind, there was nothing complicated about His frame of mind. He simply went from expressing His anger to calming His anger, and then decided not to bring catastrophe upon the city of Nineveh. The reason why God’s decision—to spare the Ninevites from catastrophe—was so swift is that God observed the heart of every person of Nineveh. He saw what they held deep within their hearts: their sincere repentance and confession for their sins, their sincere belief in Him, their deep sense of how their wicked acts had enraged His disposition, and the resulting fear of Jehovah God’s impending punishment. At the same time, Jehovah God also heard their prayers, which came from deep within their hearts, entreating Him to no longer be angry at them, so that they might avoid this catastrophe. When God observed all these facts, little by little His anger faded away. Regardless of how great His anger had previously been, His heart was touched when He saw the sincere repentance deep within these people’s hearts, and so He could not bear to bring catastrophe upon them, and He ceased to be angry at them. Instead, He continued to extend His mercy and tolerance toward them and continued to guide and provide for them.
If Your Belief in God Is True, You Will Receive His Care Often
God’s changing of His intentions toward the people of Nineveh involved no hesitation or anything that was ambiguous or vague. Rather, it was a transformation from pure anger to pure tolerance. This is a true revelation of God’s essence. God is never irresolute or hesitant in His actions; the principles and purposes behind His actions are all clear and transparent, pure and flawless, with absolutely no ruses or schemes intermingled within. In other words, God’s essence contains no darkness or evil. God became angry with the Ninevites because their wicked acts had come before His gaze; at that time His anger was derived from His essence. However, when God’s anger dissipated and He bestowed His tolerance upon the people of Nineveh once more, everything that He revealed was still His own essence. The entirety of this change was due to a change in man’s attitude toward God. During this entire period of time, God’s unoffendable disposition did not change, God’s tolerant essence did not change, and God’s loving and merciful essence did not change. When people commit wicked acts and offend God, He will bring His anger upon them. When people truly repent, God’s heart will change, and His anger will cease. When people continue to stubbornly oppose God, His rage will be unceasing, and His wrath will press in on them bit by bit until they are destroyed. This is the essence of God’s disposition. Regardless of whether God is expressing wrath or mercy and lovingkindness, it is man’s conduct, behavior, and the attitude man holds toward God deep within his heart that dictate that which is expressed through the revelation of God’s disposition. If God continuously subjects one person to His anger, this person’s heart doubtlessly opposes God. Because this person has never truly repented, bowed their head before God or possessed true belief in God, they have never obtained God’s mercy and tolerance. If someone often receives God’s care, His mercy, and His tolerance, then without a doubt this person has true belief in God in their heart, and their heart is not opposed to God. This person often truly repents before God; therefore, even if God’s discipline often descends upon this person, His wrath will not.
This brief account allows people to see God’s heart, to see the realness of His essence, to see that God’s anger and the changes in His heart are not without cause. Despite the stark contrast that God demonstrated when He was wrathful and when He changed His heart, which makes people believe there is a large disconnect or contrast between these two aspects of God’s essence—His anger and His tolerance—God’s attitude toward the repentance of the Ninevites once again allows people to see another side of God’s true disposition. God’s change of heart truly allows humanity to once again see the truth of God’s mercy and lovingkindness, and to see the true revelation of God’s essence. Humanity has but to acknowledge that God’s mercy and lovingkindness are not myths, nor are they fabrications. This is because God’s feeling at that moment was true, and God’s change of heart was true—God indeed bestowed His mercy and tolerance upon humanity once more.
The True Repentance in the Ninevites’ Hearts Wins Them God’s Mercy and Changes Their Own Outcomes
Was there any contradiction between God’s change of heart and His wrath? Of course not! This is because God’s tolerance at that particular time had its reason. What reason might this be? It is the one given in the Bible: “Every person turned away from their evil way” and “abandoned the violence in their hands.”
This “evil way” does not refer to a handful of evil acts, but to the evil source from which people’s behavior springs. “Turning away from one’s evil way” means that those in question will never commit these actions again. In other words, they will never again behave in this evil way; the method, source, purpose, intent and principle of their actions have all changed; they will never again use those methods and principles to bring enjoyment and happiness to their hearts. The “abandon” in “abandon the violence in one’s hands” means to lay down or to cast aside, to fully break with the past and to never turn back. When the people of Nineveh abandoned the violence in their hands, this proved and represented their true repentance. God observes people’s outward appearances as well as their hearts. When God observed the true repentance in the hearts of the Ninevites without question and also observed that they had left their evil ways and abandoned the violence in their hands, He changed His heart. This is to say that these people’s conduct and behavior and various ways of doing things, as well as their true confession and repentance of sins in their hearts, caused God to change His heart, to change His intentions, to retract His decision and not to punish or destroy them. Thus, the people of Nineveh achieved a different outcome for themselves. They redeemed their own lives and at the same time won God’s mercy and tolerance, at which point God also retracted His wrath.
God’s Mercy and Tolerance Are Not Rare—Man’s True Repentance Is
Regardless of how angry God had been with the Ninevites, as soon as they declared a fast and donned sackcloth and ashes, His heart began to soften and He began to change His mind. When He proclaimed to them that He would destroy their city—the moment prior to their confession and repentance for their sins—God was still angry with them. Once they had carried out a series of repentant acts, God’s anger for the people of Nineveh gradually transformed into mercy and tolerance for them. There is nothing contradictory about the coinciding revelation of these two aspects of God’s disposition in the same event. So, how should one understand and know this lack of contradiction? God expressed and revealed each of these two polar-opposite essences in turn as the people of Nineveh repented, allowing people to see the realness and the unoffendableness of God’s essence. God used His attitude to tell people the following: It is not that God does not tolerate people, or that He does not want to show mercy to them; rather, it is that they rarely truly repent to God, and it is rare that people truly turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. In other words, when God is angry with man, He hopes that man will be able to truly repent, and indeed He hopes to see man’s true repentance, in which case He will then liberally continue to bestow His mercy and tolerance upon man. This is to say that man’s evil conduct incurs God’s wrath, whereas God’s mercy and tolerance are bestowed upon those who listen to God and truly repent before Him, upon those who can turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. God’s attitude was very clearly revealed in His treatment of the Ninevites: God’s mercy and tolerance are not at all difficult to obtain, and what He requires is one’s true repentance. As long as people turn away from their evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands, God will change His heart and His attitude toward them.
The Creator’s Righteous Disposition Is Real and Vivid
When God had a change of heart toward the people of Nineveh, were His mercy and tolerance a false front? Of course not! Then what has been shown by the transition between these two aspects of God’s disposition in the course of God dealing with this one situation? God’s disposition is a complete whole—it is not at all divided. Regardless of whether He is expressing anger or mercy and tolerance toward people, these are all expressions of His righteous disposition. God’s disposition is vital and vividly apparent, and He changes His thoughts and attitudes according to the way things develop. The transformation of His attitude toward the Ninevites tells humanity that He has His own thoughts and ideas; He is not a robot or a clay figure, but the living God Himself. He could be angry with the people of Nineveh, just as He could forgive their pasts because of their attitudes. He could decide to bring misfortune upon the Ninevites, and He could also change His decision because of their repentance. People like to rigidly apply rules, and to use such rules to delimit and define God, just as they like to use formulas to attempt to understand God’s disposition. Therefore, as far as the domain of human thought is concerned, God does not think, nor does He have any essential ideas. But in reality, God’s thoughts are in a state of constant transformation according to changes in things and in environments. While these thoughts are transforming, different aspects of God’s essence are revealed. During this process of transformation, at the precise moment when God has a change of heart, what He shows to mankind is the real existence of His life, and that His righteous disposition is full of dynamic vitality. At the same time, God uses His own true revelations to prove to mankind the truth of the existence of His wrath, His mercy, His lovingkindness, and His tolerance. His essence will be revealed at any time and any place in accordance with how things develop. He possesses a lion’s wrath and a mother’s mercy and tolerance. His righteous disposition allows no questioning, violation, change, or distortion by any person. Among all matters and all things, God’s righteous disposition—that is, God’s wrath and God’s mercy—can be revealed at any time and any place. He gives vital expression to these aspects in every corner of all creation, and He implements them with vitality in every passing moment. God’s righteous disposition is not limited by time or space; in other words, God’s righteous disposition is not mechanically expressed or revealed according to the constraints of time or space, but rather with perfect ease and in all times and places. When you see God have a change of heart and cease to express His wrath and refrain from destroying the city of Nineveh, can you say that God is only merciful and loving? Can you say that God’s wrath consists of empty words? When God rages with fierce wrath and retracts His mercy, can you say that He feels no true love toward humanity? This fierce wrath is expressed by God in response to people’s evil acts; His wrath is not flawed. God’s heart is moved in response to people’s repentance, and it is this repentance that brings about His change of heart. When He feels moved, when He has a change of heart, and when He shows His mercy and tolerance toward man, all of these are utterly without flaw; they are clean, pure, unblemished and unadulterated. God’s tolerance is exactly that: tolerance, just as His mercy is nothing other than mercy. His disposition reveals wrath or mercy and tolerance in accordance with man’s repentance and the variations in man’s conduct. No matter what He reveals and expresses, it is all pure and direct; its essence is distinct from that of anything in creation. When God expresses the principles underlying His actions, they are free from any flaws or blemishes, and so are His thoughts, His ideas, and every single decision He makes and every single action He takes. Since God has thus decided and since He has thus acted, so does He complete His undertakings. The results of His undertakings are correct and faultless precisely because their source is flawless and unblemished. God’s wrath is flawless. Likewise, God’s mercy and tolerance—which are possessed by none among all of creation—are holy and flawless, and can withstand thoughtful deliberation and experience.
Through your understanding of the story of Nineveh, do you now see the other side of the essence of God’s righteous disposition? Do you see the other side of God’s unique righteous disposition? Does anyone among humanity possess this kind of disposition? Does anyone possess this kind of wrath, the wrath of God? Does anyone possess mercy and tolerance such as that which is possessed by God? Who among creation can summon forth such great wrath and decide to destroy or bring disaster upon mankind? And who is qualified to bestow mercy on man, to tolerate and pardon, and thereby change one’s prior decision to destroy man? The Creator expresses His righteous disposition through His own unique methods and principles, and He is not subject to the control or restrictions imposed by any people, events or things. With His unique disposition, no one is able to change His thoughts and ideas, nor is anyone able to persuade Him and change any of His decisions. The entirety of the behavior and thoughts that exist in all of creation exist under the judgment of His righteous disposition. No one can control whether He exercises wrath or mercy; only the essence of the Creator—or in other words, the Creator’s righteous disposition—can decide this. Such is the unique nature of the Creator’s righteous disposition!
Through analyzing and understanding the transformation of God’s attitude toward the people of Nineveh, are you able to use the word “unique” to describe the mercy found within God’s righteous disposition? We previously said that God’s wrath is one aspect of the essence of His unique righteous disposition. Now I shall define two aspects—God’s wrath and God’s mercy—as His righteous disposition. God’s righteous disposition is holy; it does not tolerate being offended or questioned; it is something possessed by none among created or non-created beings. It is both unique and exclusive to God. This is to say that God’s wrath is holy and unoffendable. In the same way, the other aspect of God’s righteous disposition—God’s mercy—is holy and cannot be offended. None of the created or non-created beings can replace or represent God in His actions, nor could anyone have replaced or represented Him in the destruction of Sodom or the salvation of Nineveh. This is the true expression of God’s unique righteous disposition.
The Creator’s Sincere Feelings Toward Mankind
People often say that it is not an easy thing to know God. However, I say that knowing God is not a difficult matter at all, for God frequently displays His deeds for man to see. God has never ceased His dialogue with mankind, and He has never concealed Himself from man, and nor has He hidden Himself. His thoughts, His ideas, His words and His deeds are all revealed to mankind. Therefore, so long as man wishes to know God, he can come to understand and know Him through all sorts of means and methods. The reason why man blindly thinks that God has intentionally avoided him, that God has intentionally hidden Himself from humanity, that God has no intention of allowing man to understand and know Him, is because he does not know who God is and nor does he wish to understand God. Even more than that, man does not concern himself with the Creator’s thoughts, words or deeds…. Truthfully speaking, if a person just uses their spare time to focus upon and understand the Creator’s words or deeds, and if they pay just a little attention to the Creator’s thoughts and the voice of His heart, it will not be difficult for that person to realize that the Creator’s thoughts, words, and deeds are visible and transparent. Likewise, it will take little effort to realize that the Creator is among man at all times, that He is always in conversation with man and the entirety of creation, and that He is performing new deeds every day. His essence and disposition are expressed in His dialogue with man; His thoughts and ideas are revealed completely in His deeds; He accompanies and observes mankind at all times. He speaks quietly to mankind and all of creation with His silent words: “I am in the heavens, and I am amongst My creation. I am keeping watch; I am waiting; I am at your side….” His hands are warm and strong; His footsteps are light; His voice is soft and graceful; His form passes and turns, embracing all of mankind; His countenance is beautiful and gentle. He has never left, never vanished. Day and night, He is mankind’s constant companion, never to leave their side. His devoted care and special affection for humanity, as well as His true concern and love for man, were displayed bit by bit as He saved the city of Nineveh. In particular, the exchange between Jehovah God and Jonah fully revealed the Creator’s tenderness for the mankind He Himself created. Through those words, you can obtain a deep understanding of God’s sincere feelings for humanity …
The following passage was recorded in the Book of Jonah 4:10–11: “Then said Jehovah, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” These are the actual words of Jehovah God, recorded from a conversation between God and Jonah. Though this exchange is brief, it brims with the Creator’s care for mankind and His reluctance to give mankind up. These words express the true attitude and feelings that God holds within His heart for His creation. Through these words, which are clear and precise such as are rarely heard by man, God states His true intentions for humanity. This exchange represents an attitude God held toward the people of Nineveh—but what kind of attitude is it? It is the attitude He held toward the people of Nineveh before and after their repentance, and the attitude with which He treats mankind. Within these words are His thoughts and His disposition.
What thoughts of God are revealed in these words? If you pay attention to the details as you read, it will not be difficult for you to notice that He uses the word “pity”; the use of this word shows God’s true attitude toward mankind.
On the level of literal meaning, people can interpret the word “pity” in different ways: First, it means “to love and protect, to feel tenderness toward something”; second, it means “to love dearly”; and finally, it means “to be unwilling to hurt something and to be unable to bear doing so.” In short, this word implies tender affection and love, as well as an unwillingness to give up someone or something; it implies God’s mercy and tolerance toward man. God used this word, which is a word commonly spoken by men, and yet it is also able to lay bare the voice of God’s heart and His attitude toward mankind.
Although the city of Nineveh was filled with people just as corrupt, evil and violent as those of Sodom, their repentance caused God to have a change of heart and decide not to destroy them. Because the way they treated God’s words and instructions demonstrated an attitude that starkly contrasted with that of the citizens of Sodom, and because of their honest submission to God and honest repentance for their sins, as well as their true and heartfelt behavior in all regards, God once more expressed His own heartfelt pity and bestowed it upon them. What God bestows upon humanity and His pity for humanity are impossible for anyone to duplicate, and it is impossible for any person to possess God’s mercy, His tolerance, or His sincere feelings toward humanity. Is there anyone whom you deem a great man or woman, or even a superhuman, who would, from a high point, speaking as a great man or woman, or upon the highest point, make this kind of statement to mankind or to creation? Who amongst mankind can know the state of human life like the palm of their hands? Who can bear the burden and responsibility for humanity’s existence? Who is qualified to proclaim the destruction of a city? And who is qualified to pardon a city? Who can say that they cherish their own creation? Only the Creator! Only the Creator has tenderness toward this mankind. Only the Creator shows this mankind compassion and affection. Only the Creator holds a true, unbreakable affection for this mankind. Likewise, only the Creator can bestow mercy on this mankind and cherish all of His creation. His heart leaps and aches at every one of man’s actions: He is angered, distressed and grieved over man’s evil and corruption; He is pleased, joyful, forgiving and jubilant for man’s repentance and belief; every single one of His thoughts and ideas exists for and revolves around mankind; what He is and has is expressed entirely for mankind’s sake; the entirety of His emotions are intertwined with mankind’s existence. For mankind’s sake, He travels and rushes about; He silently gives forth every bit of His life; He dedicates every minute and second of His life…. He has never known how to pity His own life, yet He has always cherished the mankind He Himself created…. He gives all that He has to this humanity…. He grants His mercy and tolerance unconditionally and without expectation of recompense. He does this only so that mankind can continue to survive before His eyes, receiving His provision of life. He does this only so that mankind may one day submit before Him and recognize that He is the One who nourishes man’s existence and supplies the life of all creation.
The Creator Expresses His True Feelings for Humanity
This conversation between Jehovah God and Jonah is without a doubt an expression of the Creator’s true feelings for humanity. On one hand it informs people of the Creator’s understanding of all creation under His sovereignty; as Jehovah God said, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” In other words, God’s understanding of Nineveh was far from cursory. He not only knew the number of living things within the city (including people and livestock), but He also knew how many could not discern between their right and left hands—that is, how many children and youths were present. This is concrete proof of God’s comprehensive understanding of mankind. On the other hand, this conversation informs people of the Creator’s attitude toward humanity, which is to say, the weight of humanity in the Creator’s heart. It is just as Jehovah God said: “You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city…?” These are Jehovah God’s words of reproach toward Jonah, but they are all true.
Although Jonah was entrusted with proclaiming Jehovah God’s words to the people of Nineveh, he did not understand Jehovah God’s intentions, nor did he understand His worries and expectations for the people of the city. With this reprimand, God meant to tell him that humanity was the product of God’s own hands, and that He had expended painstaking effort on each and every single person, that each and every person carried God’s expectations upon their shoulders, and that each and every person enjoyed the supply of God’s life; for each and every person, God had paid the price of painstaking effort. This reprimand also told Jonah that God cherished humanity, which was the work of His own hands, just as much as Jonah himself cherished the gourd. God would by no means abandon mankind lightly, or until the last possible moment, not least because there were so many children and innocent livestock inside the city. When dealing with these young and ignorant products of God’s creation who could not even distinguish their right hands from their left, it was even less conceivable that God would end their lives and determine their outcomes in such a hasty manner. God hoped to see them grow up; He hoped that they would not walk the same paths as their elders, that they would not have to hear Jehovah God’s warning again, and that they would bear witness to Nineveh’s past. Even more so, God hoped to see Nineveh after it had repented, to see Nineveh’s future following its repentance, and more importantly, to see Nineveh live under God’s mercy once again. Therefore, in God’s eyes, those objects of creation who could not distinguish between their right and left hands were Nineveh’s future. They would shoulder Nineveh’s despicable past, just as they would shoulder the important duty of bearing witness to both Nineveh’s past and its future under Jehovah God’s guidance. In this declaration of His true feelings, Jehovah God presented the Creator’s mercy for humanity in its entirety. It showed to humanity that “the Creator’s mercy” is not an empty phrase, nor is it a hollow promise; it has concrete principles, methods and objectives. God is true and real, and He uses no falsehoods or disguises, and in this same manner His mercy is endlessly bestowed upon humanity in every time and age. However, to this very day, the Creator’s exchange with Jonah is His sole, exclusive verbal statement of why He shows mercy to humanity, how He shows mercy to humanity, how tolerant He is of humanity and His true feelings for humanity. Jehovah God’s succinct words during this conversation express His thoughts toward humanity as an integral whole; they are a true expression of His heart’s attitude toward humanity, and they are also concrete proof of His bestowal of abundant mercy upon humanity. His mercy is not only bestowed upon humanity’s elder generations, but is also granted to the younger members of humanity, just as it has always been, from one generation to the next. Although God’s wrath frequently comes down upon certain corners and certain eras of humanity, God’s mercy has never ceased. With His mercy, He guides and leads one generation of His creation after the next, and supplies and nourishes one generation of creation after the next, because His true feelings toward humanity will never change. Just as Jehovah God said: “And should not I pity…?” He has always cherished His own creation. This is the mercy of the Creator’s righteous disposition, and it is also the full uniqueness of the Creator!
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