Lesson Thirteen


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Memory Verse: James 1:17
Further Study: 2 Kings 6:24-8:6; Prophets and Kings, 258-264;279-300 The Bible Story, vol. 5, pp. 93-97, 102-104

It was nearing the end of 1915 in the midst of the first World War. Jagatjit Singh Bahadur, the ruling maharaja of Kapurthala, India, was preparing to board the S.S. Persia on his journey home. His cargo of jewels was safely stowed on the ship. His family and support staff had boarded and were ready to sail. Before boarding himself, he received secret military intelligence that the Persia was to be targeted by a German submarine. Taking the information seriously, he decided against boarding, and told no one, but did send someone onboard in his place, as a body double. The S.S. Persia was torpedoed on December 30, 1915, just as predicted. Of 519 onboard, 343 died.

The four lepers in 2 Kings 7 had a dilemma. 

The four lepers in 2 Kings 7 had a dilemma. Already outcasts, they stood at the gates of a city under siege. Do they attempt to go into a city where people were dying for lack of food? Or do they take a chance with the enemy? Reasoning that death was always with them whether by disease or starvation, they chose the enemy.

Upon entering the Syrian camp, to their surprise everyone was gone. There was food, water, and more in abundance. Without hesitation, they ate and drank their fill. Then they went from tent to tent, taking of the valuables and riches they found. It wasn’t until much later they remembered those who were dying in the city directly behind them.

It wasn’t until much later they remembered those who were dying in the city directly behind them. 

We are dismayed at the maharaja’s decision to let a ship of people go to their death without warning. We marvel at the self-centeredness of the four lepers who think only of their own needs when others nearby are starving. Yet I know my own conscience is stricken when I think of those who may be near me and know nothing of Jesus and His salvation. Is the situation any different? I’m sure I’m not alone. How many times amidst busyness and blessings do we focus so much on ourselves that we forget those right around us?

Homer Salisbury, an Adventist missionary to India, was traveling home on the S.S. Persia after attending a church meeting in California. As the ship was sinking, it was reported he gave his life jacket to someone else. He was last seen hanging onto wreckage before he slipped into the icy water. What a contrast to the maharaja’s decision. Homer’s first thought was saving someone else.

What a contrast to the maharaja’s decision. 

Initially, the lepers made a selfish decision, but eventually thought of others. We, too, still have that opportunity. We can offer spiritual nourishment to those near us. We can toss life rings of encouragement and hope. It’s not too late to be renewed.

Digging Deeper 

There’s a less well-known story tucked away in 2 Kings 8:1-7. We are introduced once again to the Shunamite woman from chapter 4. Last we saw her Elisha raised her son from the dead. Now we learn that Elisha counseled her to leave the area due to a famine. She moved to Philistia and was away for seven years. When she returned her house and lands had been confiscated by another.

What is interesting about this story is the timing in how it unfolds. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant was talking to the king. He was telling him the miraculous stories of Elisha’s ministry, and had just arrived at the story about the son of the Shunamite, when who walked in? The very person he was talking about! Coincidence? I don’t think so.

A colleague recently related how he was impressed to call a pastor friend who works as a missionary in a place far from the United States. Where he’s located is isolated with few like-minded believers. The pastor answered the phone and my colleague discovered that just a few hours before the pastor’s wife had had a miscarriage. This isolated couple had no one to share their grief when my colleague’s call came in. He was able to comfort and pray with them. Coincidence or providence?

We learn two things from this story of the Shunamite woman. First, God is in control. He orchestrates and designs moments for us either to help someone else or to be helped. The convergence of individuals, events, and timing is not coincidence, but providence.

Second, we need to be in tune to the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to impress our hearts and minds. And when we feel those impressions, act on them. In so doing, we act as the hands and feet of God to encourage and help others.


Making it Real

This story in the Bible is not the only one where the world sees “coincidence,” but believers see providence. Look up these verses and see if you can see God’s providence.

Genesis 37:12-17
Judges 7:13-15
Ruth 2:1-9
Esther 2:21-23 and Esther 6:1-10
Luke 10:30-31


Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.


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