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
find out!

  1. Wickedness and Knowledge

    1. 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?

      1. If so, did you complain to the police officer that
        the speed limit was not posted?

      2. Assume the speed limit is not posted, should the
        police be able to give you a ticket for speeding?

      3. Is it fair to say the citizens of Ninevah are wicked
        if they do not know what God requires of them?

    2. 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.

      1. Do you want a judgment for that Assyrian king?

        1. 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
          posted somewhere?”

      2. Given what I just told you about this Assyrian king,
        would you have had the same reaction as Jonah had to
        “preaching against” him?

      3. 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?

    3. Read Genesis 20:1-5. On what basis did Abimelech, King of
      Gerar, say “it was not posted?

      1. Was “adultery” not posted?

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

        1. Notice who warned Abimelech. Why not warn the
          king of Assyria in the same way?

      3. Did this event (Abraham and Abimelech) take place
        before or after the Ten Commandments were given at
        Mt. Sinai? (Before.)

    1. 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:

      1. 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.)

      2. Read Job 31:5-6. What potential sin does Job
        acknowledge? (Honesty. Compare Exodus 20:16.)

      3. Read Job 31:26-28. What potential sin does Job
        acknowledge? (Worshiping other gods. Compare Exodus

      4. Did these discussions about Job’s potential sins take
        place before or after the Ten Commandments were given
        at Sinai? (Before.)

    2. 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

    3. 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?

      1. Read Romans 1:18-20. Do those who have not been
        warned have an excuse for sinning?

        1. If not, why not? (They don’t have an excuse
          because God’s requirements are “plain” from His

          1. What is “plain” – the commandments of God
            or the existence of God?

            1. 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.)

        2. 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
          is plain.)

  1. Wickedness and Judgment

    1. 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

      1. Compare Jonah 4:1-2. What kind of view of God and
        judgment is given here?

        1. Is Jonah lying to God about what he thought
          about God’s judgment on Nineveh?

        2. Did Jonah think God had one standard for him and
          another standard for the Ninevites?

        3. 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.)

    2. Read Jonah 4:3-4. How do we react to God’s graciousness to
      others? Are we like Jonah?

    3. Read Matthew 20:1-12. What do you think about the wage
      complaints of those who started work at the beginning of
      the day?

    4. Read Matthew 20:13-15. Is the farmer right?

      1. Does this story teach us a lesson about the judgment?
        If so, what lesson does it teach us?

        1. What does this story teach us about “earning”
          our salvation through works?

      2. Would Jonah have been benefitted by being told this
        story of the farmer and his hired help?

    5. 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

  2. Next week: The “Dove” Flees.