God’s changing of His intentions toward the people of Nineveh involved no hesitation or ambiguity. Rather, it was a transformation from pure anger to pure tolerance.
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. from God Himself, the Unique II
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 his 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 behind people’s behavior. “Turning away from his evil way” means that those in question will never commit these actions again. In other words, they will never behave in this evil way again; 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 their 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 as well as represented their true repentance. God observes people’s exteriors 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 the true confession and repentance of sins in their heart, 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 end. They redeemed their own lives and at the same time won God’s mercy and tolerance, at which point God also retracted His wrath. from God Himself, the Unique II
After listening to God’s declaration, the king of Nineveh and his subjects performed a series of acts. What is the nature of their behavior and actions? In other words, what is the essence of the entirety of their conduct? Why did they do what they did? In God’s eyes they had sincerely repented, not only because they had earnestly entreated God and confessed their sins before Him, but also because they had abandoned their wicked conduct. They acted 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, to pray for Jehovah God to restrain His anger, to entreat Jehovah God to withdraw His decision as well as the catastrophe about to befall them. Through examining all of their behavior we can see that they already understood that their previous wicked acts were detestable to Jehovah God and that they understood the reason why He would soon destroy them. For these reasons, they all wished to utterly repent, 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 no longer continued their wicked conduct nor continued to commit those acts hated by 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 they would never again infuriate Jehovah God. Their repentance was sincere and thorough. It came from the depths of their hearts and was not feigned, nor was it temporary. Once the people of Nineveh, from the supreme king to his subjects, learned that Jehovah God was angry with them, every single one of their actions, the entirety of their behavior, as well as every one of their decisions and choices were clear and plain in the sight of God. 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. As is recorded in Scripture: “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 complex about His frame of mind. He simply went from expressing His anger to calming His anger, and then decided not to bring the catastrophe upon the city of Nineveh. The reason why God’s decision—to spare the Ninevites from the catastrophe—was so swift is that God observed the heart of every person of Nineveh. He saw what they held in the depths of their hearts: their sincere confession and repentance 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 the prayers from the depths of their hearts entreating Him to cease His anger against them so that they might avoid this catastrophe. When God observed all these facts, little by little His anger disappeared. Regardless of how great His anger had previously been, when He saw the sincere repentance in the depths of these people’s hearts His heart was touched by this, and so He could not bear to bring the 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 supply them. from “God Himself, the Unique II”
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 livestock, lambs and oxen would graze or drink water. Man and livestock alike were to don sackcloth; the people would earnestly entreat 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 acts, the king of Nineveh demonstrated his heartfelt repentance. The 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 laid aside his royal status and wore 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 confess and repent his sins as an ordinary subject of God. Moreover, he also told the entire city to confess and repent their sins before Jehovah God in the same manner as him; additionally, he had a specific plan for how to do so, as seen in Scripture: “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 confess and repent his sins before Jehovah God, 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 also one that none achieved. These actions can be called unprecedented undertakings in human history; 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, leave their respective evil ways and abandon the violence in their hands. Furthermore, he was also able to put aside his throne, and in return, Jehovah God turned and repented and retracted His wrath, allowing the people of the city to survive and keeping them from destruction. The king’s actions can only be called a rare miracle in human history; they can even be called a model of a corrupt humanity confessing and repenting their sins before God. from God Himself, the Unique