Regardless of how angry God had been with the Ninevites, as soon as they declared a fast and wore sackcloth and ashes, His heart gradually softened, and He began to change His heart. 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 gone through a series of acts of repentance, 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. How should one understand and know this lack of contradiction? God successively expressed and revealed these two polar-opposite substances as the people of Nineveh repented, allowing people to see the realness and the unoffendableness of God’s substance. God used His attitude to tell people the following: It is not that God does not tolerate people, or He does not want to show mercy to them; it is that they rarely truly repent toward 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 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; He requires 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 change His attitude toward them.
When God changed His heart for the people of Nineveh, were His mercy and tolerance a false front? Of course not! Then what does the transformation between these two aspects of God’s disposition during the same matter allow you to see? God’s disposition is a complete whole; it is not at all split. 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 real and vivid. He changes His thoughts and attitudes according to the development of things. The transformation of His attitude toward the Ninevites tells humanity that He has His own thoughts and ideas; He is not a robot or clay figure, but the living God Himself. He could be angry with the people of Nineveh, just as He could forgive their pasts according to their attitudes; He could decide to bring misfortune upon the Ninevites, and He could change His decision because of their repentance. People prefer to mechanically apply rules, and they prefer to use rules to establish and define God, just as they prefer using formulas to know God’s disposition. Therefore, according to the realm of human thought, God does not think, nor does He have any substantive ideas. In reality, God’s thoughts are constantly transforming according to changes in things and in environments; while these thoughts are transforming, different aspects of God’s substance will be revealed. During this process of transformation, at the moment when God changes His heart, He reveals to mankind the truth of the existence of His life, and He reveals that His righteous disposition is real and vivid. Furthermore, 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 substance will be revealed at any time and any place in accordance to the development of things. He possesses a lion’s wrath and a mother’s mercy and tolerance. His righteous disposition is not allowed to be questioned, violated, changed or distorted 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 vividly expresses these aspects in every nook and cranny of nature and vividly carries them out at every moment. God’s righteous disposition is not limited by time or space, or in other words, God’s righteous disposition is not mechanically expressed or revealed as dictated by the limits of time or space. Rather, God’s righteous disposition is freely expressed and revealed at any time and place. When you see God change His 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 expresses fierce wrath and retracts His mercy, can you say that He feels no true love toward humanity? God expresses fierce wrath in response to people’s evil acts; His wrath is not flawed. God’s heart is moved by people’s repentance, and it is this repentance that thus changes His heart. His being moved, His change of heart as well as His mercy and tolerance toward man are utterly without flaw; they are clean, pure, unblemished and unadulterated. God’s tolerance is purely tolerance; His mercy is purely mercy. His disposition will reveal wrath, as well as mercy and tolerance, in accordance with man’s repentance and his different conduct. No matter what He reveals and expresses, it is all pure; it is all direct; its substance is distinct from that of anything in creation. The principles of actions that God expresses, His thoughts and ideas or any particular decision, as well as any single action, are free of any flaws or blemishes. As God has decided, so will He act, and in this manner He completes His undertakings. These kinds of results are precise and faultless because their source is flawless and unblemished. God’s wrath is flawless. Likewise, God’s mercy and tolerance, which are possessed by no creation, are holy and flawless, and they can stand up to deliberation and experience.
After understanding the story of Nineveh, do you see the other side of the substance 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 like God’s? Does anyone possess mercy and tolerance like God’s? Who among creation can summon forth so much wrath and decide to destroy or bring disaster upon mankind? And who is qualified to bestow mercy, to tolerate and pardon man, and thereby change one’s decision to destroy man? The Creator expresses His righteous disposition through His own unique methods and principles; He is not subject to the control or restrictions of 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 of creation exist under the judgment of His righteous disposition. No one can control whether He exercises wrath or mercy; only the substance of the Creator—or in other words, the Creator’s righteous disposition—can decide this. This is the unique nature of the Creator’s righteous disposition!
Once we have analyzed and understood 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 substance 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 is unoffendable as well as unquestionable; it is something possessed by none among the 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; at the same time, 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 can anyone replace or represent Him in the destruction of Sodom or the salvation of Nineveh. This is the true expression of God’s unique righteous disposition.
People often say that it is not an easy thing to know God. I, however, say that knowing God is not a difficult matter at all, for God frequently allows man to witness His deeds. God has never ceased His dialogue with mankind; He has never concealed Himself from man, 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 that he does not know who God is, nor does he wish to understand God; even more so, he is not concerned with the Creator’s thoughts, words or deeds…. Truthfully speaking, if one only uses their idle time to focus upon and understand the Creator’s words or deeds, and pay a little attention to the Creator’s thoughts and the voice of His heart, it will not be difficult for them 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 substance 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 above the universe, 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, nor has He vanished. From dawn to dusk, He is mankind’s constant companion. His devoted care and special affection for humanity, as well as His true concern and love for man, were displayed bit by bit when He saved the city of Nineveh. In particular, the exchange between Jehovah God and Jonah laid barer the Creator’s pity for the mankind He Himself created. Through these words, you can obtain a deep understanding of God’s sincere feelings for humanity….
The following is recorded in the Book of Jonah 4:10-11: “Then said the LORD, 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 then 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, a conversation between Him and Jonah. While this exchange is a brief one, it is brimming with the Creator’s care for mankind and His reluctance to give him up. These words express the true attitude and feelings that God holds within His heart for His creation, and with these clear-cut words, the likes of which 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 this? It is the attitude He held toward the people of Nineveh before and after their repentance. God treats humanity in the same manner. Within these words one can find His thoughts, as well as His disposition.
What thoughts of God are revealed in these words? A careful reading immediately reveals that He uses the word “pity”; the use of this word shows God’s true attitude toward mankind.
From a semantic perspective, one can interpret the word “pity” in different ways: first, to love and protect, to feel tenderness toward something; second, to love dearly; finally, to be both unwilling to hurt it and unable to bear doing so. In short, it implies tender affection and love, as well as an unwillingness to give up someone or something; it means God’s mercy and tolerance toward man. Although God used a word commonly spoken among men, the use of this word lays bare the voice of God’s heart and His attitude toward mankind.
While the city of Nineveh was filled with people just as corrupt, evil and violent as those of Sodom, their repentance caused God to change His heart and decide not to destroy them. Because their reaction to God’s words and instructions demonstrated an attitude in stark contrast to 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 demonstrated His heartfelt pity and bestowed it upon them. God’s reward and His pity for humanity are impossible for anyone to duplicate; no person can possess God’s mercy or tolerance, nor His sincere feelings toward humanity. Is there anyone whom you deem a great man or woman, or even a superman, who would, from a high point, speaking as a great man or woman or upon a supreme point, make this kind of statement to mankind or to creation? Who amongst mankind can know humanity’s living conditions like the palm of their hands? Who can bear a burden and responsibility for humanity’s existence? Who is capable to proclaim the destruction of a city? And who is capable of pardoning a city? Who can say that they cherish their own creation? Only the Creator! Only the Creator has pity on this mankind. Only the Creator shows this mankind tenderness 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 exist for and revolve 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 pitied and 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.
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 of nature under His command; as Jehovah God said, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then 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 a cursory one. He not only knew the number of living things within the city (including people and livestock), 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 superb 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 blame 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 His own hands, and God had put forth painstaking effort for every single person; every person carried with them God’s hopes; every person enjoyed the supply of God’s life; for every person, God had paid a painstaking cost. This reprimand also told Jonah that God cherished humanity, the work of His own hands, as much as Jonah himself cherished the gourd. God would by no means easily abandon them before the last possible moment; moreover, 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, God was all the more unable to 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 Nineveh’s past and 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. He is true and real, and 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 God’s 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 conversation expresses His complete thoughts for humanity; it is a true expression of His heart’s attitude toward humanity, and it is also concrete proof of His broad bestowal of mercy upon humanity. His mercy is not only bestowed upon humanity’s elder generations; it 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, 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 I not spare Nineveh…?” He has always cherished His own creation. This is the mercy of the Creator’s righteous disposition, and it is also the pure uniqueness of the Creator!
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