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A fragment of a burned hymnal from the Thomas Street Church of Christ.
Photo by Jerry Jacks

As we wait to rise from the ashes, we remember a God who sings over us

ALTUS, Okla. — Zephaniah isn’t the first book that comes to mind when we think of quotable Scriptures. 

I only ran across the Old Testament prophet (sandwiched between Habakkuk and Haggai) because I was doing one of those “Bible in a year” read-throughs. I love his words of encouragement to “the remnant of Israel,” and I find them increasingly relevant as the number of our nation’s faithful falls. 

“God was singing over us. We were not forgotten.”

So I included a passage from Zephaniah 3 in a sermon I preached for the Tamarack Road Church of Christ — just two weeks before the pandemic confined us to our homes. 

My wife grew up in this church, and we were married in its former building on Thomas Street. Two years later, on Pearl Harbor Day 2005, an electrical fire burned it to the ground. Now the 200-member church meets in a beautiful building on Tamarack Road. The signed pages of hymnals, pulled from the ashes, are framed in the foyer.

Related: Fire destroys Oklahoma church building

After my sermon, Brenda Henry, a longtime family friend, talked to me about how much those words from Zephaniah mean to her. She thinks about them nearly every day, in fact.

Just after the Thomas Street building burned, she said, the women of the church were invited to take part in a ladies’ day sponsored by the North Groesbeck Church of Christ in Quanah, Texas. 

“You have to be lost to find it,” Brenda said. The church, which lists an attendance of 28, meets just across the Red River from southwest Oklahoma. The ladies from Altus probably outnumbered their hosts 2 to 1. Brenda remembered that the North Groesbeck ladies purposefully spread out so that they were well-mixed among their visitors.

The event included food (of course) and gifts of devotional books, candles, tea towels and the like for all of the Altus women. 

What’s stuck with Brenda most, though, is a Scripture reading done by one of the hosts — those words from Zephaniah.

After the fire “we were all kind of down,” Brenda said. Hearing about God’s faithfulness to the remnant, how he forgives and even delights in his children, gave them a much-needed boost.

“God was singing over us,” she said. “We were not forgotten.” 

And the small kindnesses they received from their sisters were immeasurable, she added.

I spoke to Brenda on the phone a few days ago, and we agreed that Zephaniah’s words are equally relevant in our current, troublesome times. I leave them with you as I pray for health, safety and even sanity for us all in the days to come.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @eriktryggestad. 

Filed under: Church of Christ encouragement Insight Opinion Zephaniah

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