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Lesson 3: Jonah and the Judgment *

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 20:3-4.)

      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 beginning.)

    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 creation.)

          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 judgment?

      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 graciousness?

  2. Next week: The "Dove" Flees.
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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