The Saigon Factor / Hope
An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper
Now it happened, when the king heard
the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by
on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth
on his body. (2KI 6:30)
A. To tear one's clothes is a recognition that one is without
The king's actions are a powerful symbol of the state we come to when
we become dramatically and personally aware of the evil that surrounds
1. The first lesson describes people suffering from famine and
a. Walled up in a fortified city
b. The Syrian army outside waiting for the opportunity to tear
down the walls
c. Food became so scarce that a small portion of dove droppings
sold for five shekels of silver.
d. In this context, we are told of two woman reduced to the point
(1) Not just cannibalism, but they were eating their own children
B. In 1975 the NVA were closing in on Saigon
1. After a lifetime of stress and war, it was about to come home
to the people of Saigon
2. It was observed that as the NVA drew closer
a. As it became clear that the end was near,
(1) The whole fabric of their ancient and civilised culture
(a) Personal property was no longer recognized
there was rampant looting
(b) People coldly murdered each other to gain an edge
i. And no one seemed to care
(c) Every aspect of civilization, the rule of law
was thrown aside in the interests of self-preservation and escape.
(d) Today, this total collapse of a society under stress is
called the "Saigon Factor."
C. In 1993 South African Society is under tremendous stress and
1. We know how stressful life can be
a. Death, Divorce, Moving, Illness
b. Any one of these by itself can knock your life off the rails
c. But when these have to be faced in the context of a complete
(1) Moral foundations and mental stability are at risk.
d. We all know the problem. How can the church help us cope?
D. A few weeks ago someone told me that they had prayed for a
1. But the friend had died.
2. It struck me that while it appeared that the prayers had failed
a. In fact the prayer had been answered
because that sick friend, now in the spiritual world, would never again
be sick! That person could look forward to an eternity of
improving health and physical vigor!
b. It only seemed that the prayers had failed
because we are constantly deceived into thinking that this world is the
point of our existence, we think that our happiness in this world is
what the Divine Providence is to provide. When we pray for
health, we pray for the health of our physical bodies, ignoring our
E. Even though we may feel things are going poorly
1. Yet the Divine Providence is operating
a. We just have to know where to look
b. The Divine Providence regards eternal ends.
(1) The Doctrines speaks of two ways that we ignore this teaching
(a) Those who ascribe all things to prudence, and nothing to
First, the Heavenly Doctrines speak of those "who ascribe all things to
their own prudence and little or nothing to Divine Providence" (See AC
We are taught that they may be shown in a thousand different ways that
the Divine Providence governs the universe down to the most minute
particulars, and they may even from time to time perceive this truth in
their own life by living experiences. However, as quickly as the memory
of the event fades, so fades their conviction, and they return to their
former belief in their own prudence. This change is temporary because
it was a change in the thought only, not accompanied with a change in
the affection. An opinion cannot be changed as long as the person
who holds it still loves it. The affection for the opinion must change
before the opinion itself can change, and the affections are only
changed through temptation. In states of anxiety and grief that
come from spiritual temptations, strong opinions can be broken, for
then it may be seen that all power, prudence, intelligence and wisdom
are from the Lord. At the same time we acknowledge that are nothing,
and need His Guidance and help. (See Ibid.)
(b) Those who believe in salvation by faith or grace.
Again, people who firmly believe this may be shown a thousand logical
reasons why this can't be, and yet they will not be moved an inch,
because only the thought has been touched, not the more important
ruling affection. We love many different things and our
contradictory affections enable us to hold contradictory beliefs.
As long as we believe they are our very own beliefs, and we have
affection for them, our view cannot be changed.
Is it not true that the best way to convince another person to do
something is to lead him to propose the project himself? The best
salesman is the one who is able to convince the customer that it is the
customer's own idea to buy. It is the affection or love that must
be changed, and this can be done only by the Lord during states of
temptation, for it is only by temptations that we can be reduced from
our belief in our own guiltlessness to the state from which we can
perceive the hell in ourselves, and this to such a degree as to despair
of ever being saved, then for the first time that persuasive (belief)
is broken, and with it (our) pride, and (our) contempt of others in
comparison (to ourselves), and also the arrogance that (we) are the
only ones who are saved (See AC 2694:4).
2. Disasters and troubles are permitted for the sake of our
We need the deep despair in temptation in order to break the persuasive
light from our own self-intelligence, so that we will recognize our
need for the Lord. Then, as soon as we do realize this, and ask
for the Lord's help, states of comfort and hope are given by the Lord.
From the depths of anxiety and grief, we can be led by the Lord into
the heartfelt realization that not only is all good from the Lord, but
also all things in the universe, from greatests to leasts, are under
His direct, loving care: are of His Mercy. Finally, when we see
our own character clearly, we are humbled in heart. We not only
think but also know and acknowledge with both heart and mind that
without the Lord we are nothing at all.
And then comes a miracle. From this depth of despair, from this
feeling of helplessness and unworthiness, when we turn to the Lord for
help, the Lord flows in with comfort, and hope, and even delight. The
purpose of temptation is to conjoin good and truth in our natural
degree, to build a new will in the elevated understanding, a new will
full of good from the Lord.
When good and truth are conjoined in us through combats of temptation,
we feel delight because the conjunction is a correspondence with the
heavenly marriage of good and truth, and also with the Divine Love
Itself and Divine Wisdom Itself conjoined in the Lord. This
conjunction and union in the Lord is the source of all delight.
Thus, when we have resisted an evil in ourselves, and hung on to our
conviction that what we are doing is commanded by the Lord for the sake
of our eternal life, the evil is removed, good from the Lord flows in,
and the state of temptation ends as states of comfort and hope begin.
3. The importance of an affirmative attitude.
"...Temptations are attended with doubt in regard to the Lord's
presence and mercy, and also in regard to salvation. The evil spirits
who are then with the man and induce the temptation strongly inspire
negation, but the good spirits and angels from the Lord in every
possible way dispel this state of doubt, and keep the man in a state of
hope, and at last confirm in him what is affirmative. One who
yields in temptation remains in a state of doubt, and falls into what
is negative; but one who overcomes is indeed in doubt, but still, if he
suffers himself to be cheered by hope, he stands fast in what is
affirmative (AC 2338).
It is important to note how we are to become steadfast in the
affirmative principle, so necessary for success in temptation: We
must allow ourselves to be cheered by hope, we must believe in the
feeling that the Lord gives us in our states of temptation that there
is a place for us in heaven, and that it is possible to throw off the
impediments of this world with the Lord's help.
If we will allow ourselves to have this hope, then we will see the end
and use in temptation, and will not be destroyed by the effort. We are
given hope from the Lord so that we may see our way out of the natural
and spiritual disasters we experience even while we are in the depths
of them, if we have confidence that the Lord has the power to save,
that He is the Redeemer.
I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O Lord! I will keep Your
Statutes. I cry out to You; Save me and I will keep Your
testimonies. I rise before the dawning of the morning and cry for help;
I hope in Your Word (Psalm 119:145-147). AMEN.
A. 2KI 6:24-30
24 And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria
gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria.
25 And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they
besieged it until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of
silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of
26 Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a
woman cried out to him, saying, "Help, my lord, O king!"
27 And he said, "If the LORD does not help you, where can I find
help for you? From the threshing floor or from the
28 Then the king said to her, "What is troubling you?" And she
answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give your son, that we may eat him
today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.'
29 "So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the
next day, 'Give your son, that we may eat him'; but she has hidden her
30 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman,
that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people
looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body.
B. MAT 6:19-21, 25-34
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth
and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither
moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and
21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be
25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what
you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will
put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than
26 "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap
nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not
of more value than they?
27 "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his
28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of
the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
29 "and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was
not arrayed like one of these.
30 "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is,
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you,
O you of little faith?
31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What
shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your
heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and
all these things shall be added to you.
34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will
worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
C. DP 214, 215 (portions)
The Divine Providence regards eternal things, and not temporal things,
except so far as they make one with eternal things.
There are many temporal things, yet they all relate to dignities and
riches. By temporal things are meant such as either perish with time,
or come to an end with man's life in this world only; but by eternal
things are meant those which do not perish and come to an end with
time, and therefore do not end with life in this world.
Since, as has been stated, all temporal things relate to dignities and
riches it is important to know the following, namely, what dignities
and riches are and whence they are; what is the nature of the love of
them for their own sake, and what is the nature of the love of them for
the sake of uses; that these two loves are distinct from each other as
heaven and hell are; and that man hardly knows the difference between
these two loves.