Graham Thompson - First Oaklodge Convention - Wednesday night, 2004

Hymn 327, "He Who Hath Lead Will Lead"

It speaks of what the Lord will do and perhaps we often sing it. Thinking of looking a little into the future and it has been appealing to me, as being so relevant what the Lord will do in these days of retreat that we spend in His presence.

Malachi 3:6, "For I am the Lord, I change not therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." In the next verse, "'Return unto Me and I will return unto you,' saith the Lord of hosts." He said, "I am the Lord I change not" - similarly, I suppose, that those words perhaps speak to us sometimes as a warning; sometimes as a stern and serious reminder that what God has spoken will forever remain and nothing can change it and no statute of His will ever be removed or altered and the way that He has marked in Jesus can never change, the standards of His teaching can never change and His doctrine will never change. It means all that of course but I was noticing that on this occasion when the Lord said these words, He was speaking it in a context of reminding these people, that even though they had not been what they should have been, yet still they stood before Him and even though they had not been what He would have liked them to have been, yet still He was showing them that they could return to Him and He would return to them.
I, the Lord, change not - I am sure you can remember the sense of wonder that you first knew when God spoke to you in the beginning, the sense of amazement, to think that despite what you were; despite your deadness; despite the sin that had trapped you and kept you in its power, yet God in Heaven was taking notice of you, and that God, the almighty God, was showing Himself to be to you not just the Almighty God and the Creator and judge of the earth, but your Father, the One who looked down on you with a pitying eye and a caring heart and the One who is prepared to reach out to you even in your very lowest state. I am sure we don't forget the wonder, do we?  The sense of wonder that filled our hearts that God, the great God, would even think on me, and that He would be prepared to speak and that He would be prepared to reach out to us, and not just turn away His face in disappointment or disgust at what we are or what we be or where we've been, but that He would look upon us and even that He would look upon us with a face that shone and that He would look upon us with a smile of welcome and look upon us with arms outstretched and bid us to come to Him. We don't forget do we?  The first days when our hearts were stirred and we began to understand that God is a God full of compassion and a gracious God, a merciful God.
I am the Lord, I change not - remember first when He looked on us with that tender smile and with those arms outstretched in welcome to bid us come to Him, He still looks on us the same, with the same smile and to bid us come to Him even yet again. I'm sure we don't forget do we, in the very beginning how it was almost beyond us to comprehend that someone could love us in the state that we were in - that God could love us in the state which we were in, and love us not just in the measure of what we have known of human love or something that could spring out of the human heart, within a measure far greater than that. In fact something far greater than that, without measure, that the wonder to know that He loved us, He loved us so much that He sent His Son, His only begotten Son. He sent Him to live and to die for us that we might have a door of hope and opportunity opened to us that we might be reconciled, and that we might be set free; that there be nothing held against us that every burden might be taken away and all guilt and all heaviness might be taken away. It is almost beyond our comprehension, isn't it, that we might understand the Lord was looking upon us and wanting to set us free, looking upon us in the state in which we were in – wanting to set us free, and now He is saying to us, “I the Lord, change not - I still feel the same; I still love to set you free.”  Though perhaps you may feel somewhat disappointed and maybe you feel somewhat self conscious within yourself, coming into the presence of God, that perhaps things haven't been just as they might have been, or should have been, the Lord does not change, the One who looked on us in the beginning with a pitying eye with the desire to bless, the desire to save, with the desire to draw us to Himself in reconciliation in Jesus and to be at one with us, He looks at us today, as we gather in again unto Him today, He looks on us with the very same look and with the very same feeling. He has not changed.
Sometimes when we are overcome within ourselves, we feel broken and dragged down by things that we feel that would be grieving to God. Satan tries to tell us, doesn't he?  That God will never look at us again, He won't want you now, and He won't hear your prayer and it's finished, you're done for; it's finished because you've made a fool of yourself before God - that's Satan's words, but it's not God's, He doesn't change. He wants you now, just as much as He ever wanted you and more and He wants you to be His and to remain His, just as much as He ever did. He wants to keep you close to Him and draw you close to Him, just as much as He ever did, He wants to hold you safe and walk with you just as much as He ever did, He does not change. “You return to me,”  He said, “and I will return to you.”  It tells us in the 80th Psalm, three times in that Psalm, “Turn us again O Lord cause Thy face to shine, so shall we be saved.”  Turn us again, cause Thy face to shine. You know what the problem is when sometimes perhaps we don't feel so conscious of the Lord's face shining toward us as perhaps we have been at other times. Do you know what the problem is? It's not that the Lord doesn't want to look upon us, or not that He doesn't want His face to shine upon us, but it's that we need to be turned. We need to be turned back to Him and His voice is saying to us, “You return to me and I will return to you.”  If you have a look at this afterwards and just read the words that He said - the words before, that we didn't read together, and you'll see some of the things that these people had fallen into and some of the faults that the Lord was pointing out to them, and they were no small things and He had to tell them that He wasn't happy with where they were and what they had done, but He wasn't telling them that just to cast them off, was He?  He wasn't telling them that as words of condemnation. He was telling them that to encourage them, that though He knew everything about them, yet still He wanted them to turn back to Him again. Although He knew the kind of faults and problems they had fallen to, serious though they were, yet He was telling them, "You return to Me and I will return to you." He still feels the same as He ever did. Do you think the Lord who looked upon us in our sin when we were completely dead to Him and He loved us and He cared for us and desired to bless and to save us?  Do you think that He would feel any less that way towards us now because we may have failed and may have done the wrong thing?  He feels more that way towards us now because though we have failed yet we are His, and though we have failed and not been what we ought to have been, we have tried to please our Lord.  We had no thought of Him and we weren't making any attempt to serve Him or please Him and serve Him and do His will, yet He loved us, and how much more does He love us now, when we have been those who have been all these things. Though our efforts may have been feeble, though we may have failed many a time, we have been those who have been trying to please our Lord, trying to do His will, trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. When we were dead in sin, Christ died for us; when we were dead in sin, God loved us, and He sent His Son and He gave everything that He had. He gave His Son, He sent Him into this world to live and die for us that there might be hope, and that there might be reconciliation and how much more; how much more do these things apply to us now and how much more does the Lord like to extend that hand to us now as though we have been made alive to Him and been brought to Him and our feet have been set in the path of Life and our desire is still in that path of Life and our desire is still towards Him to have a love for Him and we are grieved when we fail Him.
I was looking into the experience of Peter and especially what is written about the Lord speaking to him in the last chapter of John, chapter 21, we know what went before that. Jesus had told Peter, hadn't He, that Satan desired to sift him as wheat.  “But I have prayed for you,” He said, “that your faith fail not, and when you are converted, you strengthen your brethren.”  Peter had said, “I'm ready to die with you Lord, nothing will turn me, I am ready to die.”  We know what happened don't we? That dark night when Peter succumbed to that pressure of the enemy, and how he denied his Lord and we read a little later on in that chapter 21 of John, where, he along with others of Galilee, went fishing and the Lord appeared to them in the morning standing on the seaside after their fruitless effort, He asked them did they have any meat and they had to say “No.”  He said, “You cast on the other side of the ship and you'll find.”  They did that and they enclosed a great multitude of fishes and Peter swam ahead of the others it seems, to go to Jesus, realising this was his Lord and he just wanted to be near to Him. Maybe, Peter may well have wondered, “Just what kind of a welcome am I going to get here? I've made a fool of myself, I promised I'd die for Him, I denied Him, failed my Lord the One I love, I wonder what He's going to say to me.”  The thing that appealed to me in reading that passage again, was what the Lord didn't say what He could have said, but He didn't say it. He could have rebuked His disciples, couldn't He?  He could have reminded Him of those three times that he denied Him and even said he'd die for Him; He could have reminded him that He'd warned him. “I warned you, didn't you take any notice; didn't it sink in, - didn't you understand? I warned you that Satan was after you, I warned you about praying and the weakness of the flesh, I warned you.”  He could have said so many things; could have rebuked him so sternly; could have even scorned him for the failure that he had become after the things that he had said. He said nothing like that. No rebuke, no condemnation, no hard word. He might have mentioned what Job said in the 23rd chapter, he said about the desire to draw near to God, longing that he could have found that place with God, longing that he could speak to God, he said, “Will He plead against me with His great strength, no, with His great power?”  He said, “No. He will put strength into me."  Job 23:6, “Will He plead against me with His great power, NO, He'll put strength into me.”  It says in another Psalm, Psalm 85, "O hear what the Lord my God will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn again to folly.”  He was to speak peace. Peter on that day, when he might have wondered so much, it might have even been in fear, he knew that he could do nothing else but rush into the arms of his Saviour. There was nothing else he could do, and just as we feel as we come to this place, here in the presence of God, the only consolation there is for what is in our heart, to find rest of heart from a distressed heart, nothing else we can do but fly into the arms of our Saviour, and yet, perhaps we have been wondering what will He say? No rebuke, no condemnation, no hard words, just speaking peace with His people. Jesus spoke to Peter, He just asked him that question, “Do you love me?”  “Yes Lord I love you.”  “Feed My sheep, feed My lambs.”
I love the way that Jesus, in speaking to Peter, was looking forward. Peter no doubt was looking back a little, a lot of sorrow in his heart, a lot of guilt and Jesus was looking forward, "Feed My lambs and feed My sheep." You don't need to bury yourself with self condemnation and you don't need to bury yourself in your distress and your sorrow, you can go forward. Didn't He say to him before that, “I have prayed for you” and that “Satan desires to have you, to sift you as wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not, when you are converted strengthen your brethren.”  Jesus knew where he was going to go and what he was going to do. He knew the bitterness that was going to come into Peter's own soul because of what he himself had been and failing his Lord. He knew all that, but He was looking forward even then, wasn't He? Looking forward to this converting of this man, this change that would come because of how the Lord dealt with him in his failure; because of what he had learnt himself and because of what it had been put into him. He said, "You strengthen your brethren after you have been through this valley and through this experience you are going to come out a strengthener of your brethren; you are going to be a stronger man; you are going to be a feeder of sheep, you are going to be a helper of souls; you are going to be something that you haven't been to this time, because when you have failed, you came to Me and I was able to help you look forward." Not to be taken up by looking back or taken up by the depth of the hole from which he had sunk, but looking forward.
God has kindly gathered us in again to the place that means so much to us where we can feel we can do nothing else but to fly into the arms of our Saviour, in this place He wants us to know this converting again, this turning again, this knowing again of His face shining upon us, and He wants us to be able to look forward and to remind us that what He has ever been to us, He still is and desires to be and ever will be, and He doesn't change. The One who gave His life to save souls and to bring the blessing of God to souls, it's still His desire towards us as His people to bring the fullness of God's blessing, to keep us in His Salvation, it doesn't change. His love towards to us, it doesn't change, His purposes they don't change, His feeling towards us, it doesn't change, He still wants us to be His and to keep us; to keep us His forever and wants to send us forward again in the strength that we receive from Him as we wait in this place, so that we would go on to better things and may go on to please our Lord more and to be more of a help to others. May it be so for us all.