Monday, July 15, 2024

HABAKKUK’S COMPLAINTS AND OUR CRY FOR JUSTICE

by Paean Dyree M. Taripe | March 12, 2023

In light of the assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo on March 4, 2023, and the continuing impunity and merciless killing not only in the province but even across the country, this reminds us of the time of Judah when the city of Jerusalem was finally captured by Babylon where corruption, political instability, and violence ruled over. This happened years after the sudden and untimely demise of King Josiah who was considered to be the best of the very best among the kings of Judah.

Witnessing all of these at that time was the prophet Habbakuk whose own book begins with a series of gut-level complaints to the Lord and demands immediate answers to the injustices beholding before him. His cry could also be similar to us as recorded in the following verses:

Habakkuk 1:2-3 says, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and clamorous discord.” 

God responded to Habakkuk’s cry for justice in verse 5, “Look over the nations and see, and be utterly amazed! For a work is being done in your days that you would not have believed, were it told.”

Unsatisfied with God’s “vague” response, Habakkuk then replied as if intending to put God into a corner within his own traditional faith understanding in verse 13. “Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithful in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself?”

Like Habakkuk, we are already fed up with the unresolved killings and impunity in our country; like the prophet, we cry for justice and we question God who is supposed to reward the righteous and punish the wicked automatically. In his earnest longing for an answer from the Lord, he declared that he will keep on waiting for the divine reply at the guard post.

Habakkuk 2:1 states, “I will stand at my guard post, and station myself upon the rampart, and keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what answer he will give to my complaint.” 

For Habakkuk, the guard post became a symbol of waiting for the answer of the Lord to his own question of meaning and faith, then the Lord replied to the prophet, saying, “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, and it will not be late. The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.”

It is in this theme of faithful, righteous waiting for the completion of the work of God despite the terrible times that Habakkuk makes his greatest contribution to the prophetic tradition of Israel and was not lost even during the time of Jesus and the beginnings of the church as developed by the Apostle Paul and the Protestant reformers later on.

In conclusion, Habakkuk becomes a source of one of the most profound expressions of a faithful response to a faith-shattering reality—a reality that shocked the people of Negros Oriental and a reality that will forever scar the province. As we still process these faith-shattering realities, we send out, as one Silliman community, our sincerest condolences to the family of the late Governor Roel Ragay-Degamo, a Sillimanian, and the families of the 5 other victims who died together with him.

Let this passage in Habakkuk 3:17-19 strengthen and comfort us that even in the midst of apparent hopelessness and barrenness, there is a stubborn hope and rejoicing in the Lord: “For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God. My Lord is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights.”

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