“How Long, O Lord?” (Hab. 1:1-4)

Last Sunday sa online worship service, nagbigay ako ng overview ng message ng book of Habakkuk. Pinag-aralan natin yung implication ng first verse sa message ng whole book. Yung unang complaint niya sa Hab. 1:2-4, sinagot naman ni Lord sa 1:5-11. Tapos meron na naman siyang follow-up complaint sa 1:12-17, na sinagot ni Lord sa buong chapter 2. Tapos yung chapter 3 ay prayer niya.

Verse 1 serves as introduction sa whole book. “The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.” Sa KJV, “burden.” This is a weighty word from the Lord. Mabigat ang salita ni Lord dito for us. Wala tayong masyadong alam about Habakkuk. Wala naman kasing binabanggit sa rest of Scripture about him. Wala tayong alam about his life, about his family. Except yung details surrounding his life. Contemporary siya ni Jeremiah. Nagserve siya as prophet during the time of Josiah, nagkaroon ng brief revival sa Judah nun. Pero nang palitan na siya ng anak niya na si Jehoiakim, balik na naman sila sa dati. Wala na yung northern kingdom, yung Israel, during this time. Nilusob na ng Assyria, yung ruling empire this time. Pero in decline na sila, on the rise naman ang Babylon. We don’t know much about the messenger, pero ang pinakamahalaga ay yung message na galing sa Panginoon through him.

Dito sa vv. 2-4, ito yung first complaint ni Habakkuk. Isa itong prayer of lament. Lament is “a prayer in pain that leads to trust” (Mark Vroegop). Iba lang yung form nito sa common psalms of lament, na siyang 1/3 ng book of Psalms. Merong individual lament. Merong community lament. 

Dito sa prayer of complaint ni Habakkuk, ang primary complaint niya ay yung para walang ginagawa si Lord para sagutin yung prayers niya, wala siyang reply, para siya na-“seen zone” sa Messenger. Walang reply.

Dito sa vv. 2-4 meron siyang mga questions. Sa v. 2, “How long…how long…” Sa v. 3, “Why…? Why…? Sa v. 4, implied yung question niya. Merong similar expression ito sa Psalm 13:1-2, “How long…?” Four times ‘yan. Yung “why” naman, tulad ng Psalm 10:1, “Why, Lord…?” Pag nagtatanong tayo, we expect answers. But it is not just about answers. We need to feel his emotion. Kasi kahit magtanong ka kay Lord, “Gaano katagal?” Tapos sagutin niya yung time kung 1 year or 2 years, maa-address ba yung pain na nararamdaman mo pag nalaman mo yung answer? So it is not just about satisfying our curiosity. We want comfort from God. So these questions are expressions of pain, giving us a language or express how to express our pain to God.

We have here an example from Habakkuk na nandun yung honest, hindi niya idedeny yung feelings niya. Di tulad natin, pag tinatanong tayo, “How are you?” Sagot agad natin, “Okay naman. God is good.” Pero paano kung di tayo okay? So itong mga prayers of laments ay nagtuturo sa atin how to express what we feel, na pwede nating sabihin kay Lord yung feelings natin with brutal honesty without fearing na itataboy tayo ni Lord, at pagagalitan. Kahit di naman natin sabihin sa kanya, alam naman niya yun, so better sabihin na natin sa kanya.

Sa v. 2, ang question niya, “Bakit di ka nakikinig sa prayers ko?” Sa v. 3, “Bakit parang hindi mo pinapansin ang mga kasamaang nangyayari sa bansa namin?” Sa v. 4, “Bakit yung mga righteous ang naaagrabyado pa nitong mga wicked?”

Why are you not answering my prayers? (1:2)

Sabi niya sa v. 2, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” This is a prayer to God. Usually kasi kapag may mga daing tayo, yung iba nagsusumbong kay Tulfo. Yung iba as social media puro reklamo. Pero itong complaint ni Habakkuk, sa Diyos nakadirekta. At kung mapapansin n’yo kung paano niya tinawag ang Diyos, all caps “LORD”, sa Tagalog MBB “Yahweh”. Ito yung covenant name ni God for Israel. So, kahit na nandun yung bigat sa heart ni Habakkuk, si Lord ang kinakausap niya sa prayer. He’s addressing not just the sovereign God, but God who is in covenant relationship with Judah.

Ang prayer niya, “How long…?” Prayer din marahil ito ng ibang mga taga-Judah. Parang nandun yung impatience niya, na ang tagal sumagot ni Lord. But this is also a prayer of faith. Kasi sa Diyos siya humihingi ng tulong. Alam niya ang promise ni God sa pagsagot sa prayer. Hindi lang ‘to basta paghingi ng tulong sa Diyos na parang merong household chores na hiniling mo sa kasama sa bahay na tulungan ka. This is a “cry for help…cry to you.” Merong desperation. Parang yung tumawag ka at humingi ng tulong kung nasusunugan ka, o nalulunod, your life is in danger. So, ang complaint ni Habakkuk, sumisigaw na siya, nagmamakaawa na siya, pero parang walang sagot. Di ba promise ni God sa, “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy” (Psalm 72:12-13 ESV). I need your help, I need your provision, I need your protection, I need your rescue, pero bakit parang walang tulong na galing sa ‘yo?

Heto pa, “How long shall I…cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Hab. 1:2). Ang implication, merong hindi tama na nangyayari, dapat may gawin si Lord dito, dapat pigilan niya, dapat baguhin niya ang sitwasyon, dapat iligtas sila sa karahasan at kalupitan ng ibang tao. Pero wala. Di ba promise din niya, “From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:14 ESV). Ang daming namamatay. Ganundin ngayon, yun din nangyayari sa kanila noon. Maybe yung Assyrians yung lumalaban sa kanila, or nagsisimula na ang oppression ng Babylon. But most probable, sarili nilang kababayan ang may kagagawan nito, mga leaders din nila ang nang-aapi sa mga mahihirap. 

“The prophet has continually sought the Lord for relief from the burden of human misery piled up every day in the streets of the cities of Judah and in the halls of justice in the land. He has witnessed a society that had been falling apart in terms of its moral fabric. From the political leaders to the common people, everyone seems to have plunged themselves into moral madness. Everyone seems to have forsaken the Lord and His covenant with His people. Everyone seems to be striving for personal pleasure and self-promotion. At every level of Judahite society, sin is rampant. There is doctrinal and covenantal unfaithfulness.” (Eric Raymond, Exalting Jesus in Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk)

Ganito din ngayon, humihingi tayo ng tulong sa Diyos sa nangyayari ngayon, sa injustice, sa corruption at incompetency sa government. Ang complaint din natin parang tumatawag tayo sa 911, may emergency na nga, pero parang busy ang linya. Bakit ganun?

Why are you ignoring sins? (1:3)

“Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” Yung una, how long. Ngayon naman, why. Heto mga nakikita niya – “iniquity,” pwede ring trouble, sorrow, wickedness, injustice; “wrong,” or violence, devastation, wrongdoing. Then, “destruction, violence, strife, contention.” Grabe ‘to. Nagkaroon lang ng brief period of revival sa time ni Josiah, pero pagkatapos niya, wala na naman, balik na naman sa datin. Wala na silang ibang choice but to cry out to God. Ito naman ang story ng buong Old Testament sa Israel. Pero yung resolution nito wala sa Old Testament, nasa New Testament pa.

Reklamo niya dito, “why do you make me see…tapos ikaw, why do you idly look…” Bakit parang ako pinipilit mong tingnan ang mga kasamaang ito, pero ikaw naman playing blind. Ipinamumukha mo sa akin ‘to, tapos ikaw nagbubulag-bulagan? Bakit ganun? Sometimes, sa mga complaints natin, akala natin we are morally superior than God, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, alam natin God cares about all our sufferings, pero based on our observation parang hindi ganun. So dito hindi lang siya nagtatanong na gusto niya ng sagot or explanation from God. But more than that, he’s expressing yung anguish and pain na nararamdaman niya, “Lord, masakit ‘to, bakit di ka sumasagot sa prayers ko, bakit parang wala kang ginagawa sa kaguluhang nangyayari sa Judah.” God, for him at para sa atin din sa nangyayari ngayon, seems indifferent to evil and suffering.

Why are you letting the righteous suffer injustice in the hands of the wicked? (1:4)

“So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” “The law is paralyzed.” Yung torah, na expression of God’s will na binigay sa Israel, paralyzed. Grow numb, ineffective (CSB), cold. Parang walang bisa, walang kabuluhan. Akala ko ba “perfect, reviving the soul” ang law of God (Psa. 19:7). Pero bakit merong law, pero parang walang effect, walang bisa. May mga judges, nagpapatupad nito, pero wala ring nangyayari. “Justice never goes forth.” Kung sino ang may kasalanan, di napaparusahan. Kung sino ang inosente, siyang napapahamak. Si Abraham ganun din ang question kay God, “Will the judge of the earth do right” (Gen 18:25)? Sa panahon din natin ngayon, sa mga nangyayari, parang nagpapatunay na the Lord is not exercising his being judge of the whole earth.

“For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” For, meron siyang basis for saying his previous observation. Yung wicked – yung Assyrians, or Babylonians or mga taga-Judah na unfaithful sa covenant. Yung mga “righteous” naman – although wala naman talagang righteous – pero itong mga taga-Judah na relatively faithful pa rin sa covenant, like itong si Habakkuk. Nung sinabi niyang “surrounded” sila, hindi lang ibig sabihing outnumbered sila, pero nalilimitihan sila, mas nagiging evident yung gawa ng mga wicked. Andun yung frustration na parang wala na silang magagawa to change the situation. We feel the same frustration today, na para bang wala nang magbabago sa society natin. Dito, yung justice “perverted.” Nababaluktot. Yung walang kasalanan, si nagdurusa. Yung may kasalanan, may okay pa ang buhay. So reklamo ni Habakkuk, “Lord, bakit n’yo natotolerate ‘to?”

So dito sa vv. 2-4, simula pa lang ng Habakkuk, we get a glimpse of what is in his heart. 

Theological Reflection

Ngayon, ano ang theology na itinuturo sa atin ng text na ‘to?
We know God is not silently ignoring our prayers. Bakit tayo magpe-pray kung wala naman tayong confidence na nakikinig siya, na may gagawin siya. Alam din natin na God is not indifferent to evil and suffering. God is will let injustice prevail.

But what we know about God comes in conflict with our perception of what is happening. Parang itong alam natin about him, parang hindi “match” sa nakikita natin sa nangyayari sa paligid natin. From a limited human perspective, God seems silent, uncaring, and unjust.

Okay lang ma-feel ‘yan. Nararamdaman natin yung conflicts and tensions na ‘yan sa mind and heart natin. Di natin kailangang itago. We must not hide these conflicting thoughts and emotions in our hearts. God welcomes them, invites them through honest prayer. Ito ang invitation sa atin ni Lord.

Life Application

So, ano ang application nito sa atin ngayon?

  1. Praying lament. Sabihin mo kay Lord kung ano ang nasa puso mo, kahit may reklamo ka, sige sabihin mo. Kasi kala natin yung prayer, prayer of thanks or petition lang. Pero yung “lament” is also a valid and biblical expression of prayer. Maraming psalms of lament, saka book of Lamentations pwede nating guide in this regard. 
  2. Honesty in one’s emotions. Di natin kailangang itaga kung ano ang nararamdaman natin. Kung tanungin tayo ng ibang tao, kung magpray tayo, okay lang na sabihin nating hindi tayo okay.
  3. Sympathy with those who are suffering. Walang binanggit si Habakkuk dito about his personal suffering, but he is identifying with the sufferings of God’s people. Ganun din sa atin ngayon. Maybe mas convenient ang buhay natin ngayon. Pero a lot of people are suffering. Nababalitaan natin ‘yan. So itong prayer ni Habakkuk nagbibigay sa atin ng language how to identify with the sufferings of God’s people.
  4. Language for personal suffering. Hindi natin nagagamit yung lament or hindi natin masyadong feel yung suffering nung iba, natural yun. Hanggang dumating yung time na tayo na yung naka-experience ng suffering. Tulad ng problema sa pamilya, o nagkasakit ka na, o talagang struggling ka na.

Then, malaking tulong itong Habakkuk sa atin. Tulad naming mag-asawa, bago pa yung quarantine period, meron na kaming pinagdaanang mag-asawa. We discovered na something is wrong sa marriage namin. We are crying to God, “Lord, bakit ganito? Bakit ang sakit? Hanggang kailan ‘to?” 

Buti na lang din, hindi dito sa v. 4 ang end ng Habakkuk. Buti na lang sasagot si Lord sa kanya. But we must keep in mind na wala sa Habakkuk, wala sa buong Old Testament ang resolution sa lahat ng dinadaing niya. So hindi lang ‘to merely an example for us to follow, but to point us to Jesus the Ultimate Lamenter.

The lament of Habakkuk points toward the lament of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Sa krus, parang ang Diyos ay silent, parang uncaring siya dun sa nangyayari kay Jesus at hinayaan niyang ma-experience ni Jesus yung ganung klaseng pain, anguish, sorrow, loneliness. Na parang wala siyang ginagawa dun sa injustice, destruction, violence, mockery na inirereklamo ni Habakkuk na naranasan ding lahat ni Jesus. The only righteous one who ever lived was surrounded by thieves on his left and right. The law is paralyzed, justice is perverted in his mock trial. He suffered violence. God did not save him. Really? 

Matagal yung inaasahan nating sagot sa prayer, parang walang nangyayaring mabuti, ibig sabihin ba tahimik ang Diyos, wala siyang ginagawa at wala siyang pakialam? We will know the answer in vv. 5-11.

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