Introduction: “If a tree falls in the forest where no one is around,
does it make any sound?” This is a rough recollection of one of those
brain-teasing Philosophy 101 questions that you were given in
college. Our lesson this week asks, “If a person violated the Ten
Commandments before they existed, was it sin?” “What if they existed
and the person simply did not know about them?” Applying this to
Jonah, how could the citizens of Ninevah be called “wicked” if they
did not have a standard for behavior? Let’s jump into the Bible and
- Wickedness and Knowledge
- Read Jonah 1:1-2. (Yes, I know we start here each week.)
Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket when you did not
know the speed limit?
- If so, did you complain to the police officer that
the speed limit was not posted?
- Assume the speed limit is not posted, should the
police be able to give you a ticket for speeding?
- Is it fair to say the citizens of Ninevah are wicked
if they do not know what God requires of them?
- Our lesson (Monday)recites how one Assyrian king reported
that when he captured a city he skinned the leaders of the
city and publically displayed their skins, he impaled
others on stakes, he cut off the arms and legs of others
and others he sealed up alive in a wall. Among the
average citizens he cut off ears, noses and fingers and
poked out eyes. Young men and women he burned.
- Do you want a judgment for that Assyrian king?
- Should he be able to say in the judgment,
“Sorry, God, no one ever told me that kind of
thing was not appropriate behavior? Is that
- Given what I just told you about this Assyrian king,
would you have had the same reaction as Jonah had to
“preaching against” him?
- Why did God have to use any human at all? Why not
give the evil Assyrian king a dream that told him to
stop this kind of behavior?
- Read Genesis 20:1-5. On what basis did Abimelech, King of
Gerar, say “it was not posted?
- Was “adultery” not posted?
- Or, was it the relationship between Abraham and Sarah
that was not posted? (He did not deny adultery was a
problem, he denied he had taken a married woman.)
- What does this show us about Abimelech’s knowledge of
the difference between good and evil? (It shows us
that Abimelech knew that adultery was wrong.)
- Notice who warned Abimelech. Why not warn the
king of Assyria in the same way?
- Did this event (Abraham and Abimelech) take place
before or after the Ten Commandments were given at
Mt. Sinai? (Before.)
- In the book of Job we find his friends telling him that
his sin has caused all of his problems. Job denies that he
has sinned. Let’s review a series of texts in Job 31:
- Read Job 31:1. What potential sin does Job
acknowledge? (He not only acknowledges the sin of
adultery, but he even adds the “gloss” that Jesus
explained about lust. See Matthew 5:27-28.)
- Read Job 31:5-6. What potential sin does Job
acknowledge? (Honesty. Compare Exodus 20:16.)
- Read Job 31:26-28. What potential sin does Job
acknowledge? (Worshiping other gods. Compare Exodus
- Did these discussions about Job’s potential sins take
place before or after the Ten Commandments were given
at Sinai? (Before.)
- How can Job and Abimelech be discussing violations of the
Ten Commandments before they were issued? How would they
know these things were sin? (This strongly suggests to us
that the Ten Commandments were widely known before God
gave them at Sinai. Certainly the parallel between Genesis
2:2-3 (made the seventh day holy) and Exodus 20:8&11
(remember to keep Sabbath holy based on Creation) suggest
to us that the Ten Commandments were known from the very
- A little while ago I asked you why God needed to use any
human at all to warn the Assyrians. Later, we saw that God
Himself warned Abimelech. What happens to a person if no
other person warns him or her about sin?
- Read Romans 1:18-20. Do those who have not been
warned have an excuse for sinning?
- If not, why not? (They don’t have an excuse
because God’s requirements are “plain” from His
- What is “plain” – the commandments of God
or the existence of God?
- If it is the existence of God which
is plain, knowing that God exists
should logically cause us to take
what actions? (Learn more about Him
and His directions for our life.)
- You have heard “funny” lines like, “If God meant
people to drive He would have given them wheels
instead of feet.” “If God meant people to watch
television He would have given then antennas.”
“If God had meant people to smoke He would have
given them chimneys.” Considering our Romans
text, is there even a small particle of truth to
these sayings? (Our text says that spiritual
truths are “plain” from the creation. I read
arguments about homosexuality based on “nature”
and agree this is one area in which the creation
- Wickedness and Judgment
- Let’s go back to Jonah. Jonah runs away, gets on a ship,
the ship is in a storm and the sailors believe the storm
arose because someone on the ship has offended some god.
Read Jonah 1:8-12. What is Jonah’s view of God and
- Compare Jonah 4:1-2. What kind of view of God and
judgment is given here?
- Is Jonah lying to God about what he thought
about God’s judgment on Nineveh?
- Did Jonah think God had one standard for him and
another standard for the Ninevites?
- What does God’s dealings with Jonah and His
dealings with the citizens of Nineveh teach us
about the way God approaches judgment? (We
learned in the first part of this lesson that
God gives us enough information to make the
right decision about Him. God’s dealings with
Jonah (and the Ninevites) shows that He goes the
“second mile” to encourage us to turn to Him.)
- Read Jonah 4:3-4. How do we react to God’s graciousness to
others? Are we like Jonah?
- Read Matthew 20:1-12. What do you think about the wage
complaints of those who started work at the beginning of
- Read Matthew 20:13-15. Is the farmer right?
- Does this story teach us a lesson about the judgment?
If so, what lesson does it teach us?
- What does this story teach us about “earning”
our salvation through works?
- Would Jonah have been benefitted by being told this
story of the farmer and his hired help?
- Friend, God has given each of us sufficient knowledge of
Him so that when our judgment comes, we are without
excuse. At the same time, God shows that He is gracious
not wanting anyone to be lost. In view of the coming
judgment, will you intelligently respond to God’s
- Next week: The “Dove” Flees.