03 March, 2018

Hosea 11:8-9—“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? … mine heart is turned within me …”

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.  As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.  I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.  I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them … And my people are bent to backsliding from Me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt Him.  How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together (Hos. 11:1-4, 7-8).

“This passage says that the outward call of the gospel to the reprobate stems from God’s love for them (vv. 1, 3).  God’s call, works, and gracious motions of His Holy Spirit are for the purpose of lovingly drawing them to Himself (v. 4), though they rebel and never come to Him (v. 7).  The anthropomorphic language of God’s heart and bowels turning in Him over the perishing children that He has brought forth and loved reflects that, though for higher purposes He has decreed to pass them over from salvation and allow them to perish wilfully in their sin, yet, God sincerely wills, by His benevolent nature and common mercies, their highest good.”

Another argument from the text is based on the assumption that God is addressing the “reprobate” in the nation, and that God is supposedly revealing a change of mind with regard to punishing them (a reluctance or hesitation to judge them for their refusal to repent).


As to Hosea 11: First, the “Israel” of whom the passage speaks is the elect Israel—not the 10 tribes outwardly, and especially not every member of the tribes head for head. That it is the elect Israel is plain from, 1) the fact that God calls him His “son" (v. 1) and “my people” later; and 2) that the gospel of Matthew, finding fulfillment of verse 1 in Jesus’ coming out of Egypt. In Hosea 11, God speaks to that Israel which is represented by and encompassed in Jesus Christ—that is, the elect. So the first sentence of the Free Offer argument—that the outward call of the gospel to the reprobate stems from God’s love for them—is already erroneous.  Of course, the gospel call comes to the reprobate as well as the elect. But this is not the point of Hosea 11.
Second, even Hosea did call both elect and reprobate in Israel to repentance; but the promise of God that those whom He calls will repent (vv. 10-11) indicates also that the true call is to the elect, and that it is efficacious and irresistible—by this call, God does and will turn His elect back to Himself.
Third, the passage indicates the grievous effect of the sins of the elect (particularly deliberate, gross sin of idolatry and utter disregard for God’s law) on their/our relationship with God. God’s love never ceases; His covenant is never broken; but our enjoyment of fellowship with Him is broken and in need of restoration, and He grieves. Jehovah’s grief in this passage is not due to reprobate not heeding His call; it is due to elect persisting in sin when they have every evidence of their Father’s love in His past dealings, and when He calls them back to Him. Of course, His grief is an anthropomorphism—I won’t get into that, but the point is that our Heavenly Father delights in fellowship with us, delights in our loving and grateful obedience. And this is why He calls us to repentance.
Why would He call the reprobate to repentance?  He does, of course; but the answer to why is different from the answer to the question why He calls the elect to repentance. He calls the elect, because He loves us, is grieved because of the way in which we walk, and delights in fellowship with us. (DK, 21/08/2019)




[Re: the notion that Hosea 11 teaches a desire of God for the salvation of the reprobate]

The context of the passage in Hosea explains the text. God’s gracious will for Ephraim is realized. Read chapter 14:4-9.
Ephraim is not the entire population of that Old Testament tribe, or even the majority of them. Ephraim is the elect in the tribe. Them, God loves and desires to save, and does save. Let Romans 9 explain: “They are not all Israel that are of Israel” (v. 6).
With reference strictly to the text itself, it is a mystery to me that anyone who knows the sovereign God and His grace can conclude that such a love as God shows in the text can fail. He did not give up on the true Ephraim and gave His Son to the cross to accomplish His redeeming love (see Hos. 13:14).
Read Hosea 11:9: “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.”  This is not a weak desire, but a divine will. At stake is His being God not a man. One who desires to save but does not and cannot is not the God of the Bible, or any god worth my worship. (DJE, 03/03/2018)


[Re: the argument that this text implies a “change of heart” on God’s part]

This argument rests on a theory of the mutability of God.  Thus, those that use this argument dissent from the official, creedal confession of the Reformed creeds, all of which confess the immutability of God, Westminster as well as the strictly Reformed confessions.  Article 1 of the Belgic Confession confesses that God is “immutable.”  Indeed, the unchangeableness of God is the Christian confession.  They ought to reexamine their common grace theology in light of the fact that it brings them into open conflict with the Reformed confessions, indeed with Christian theology.  Is common grace so dear that it is allowed to forfeit for them the Christian religion? 
One who is Reformed is not permitted to deny that God is immutable by the Reformed creed.  If one is a professing Christian, the Christian faith is at stake for him/her.
The Bible expressly declares that God is unchangeable in God’s own words, for example, Malachi 3:6:  “I change not.”  The added words warn that the doctrine of God’s changeableness would involve the possibility that the sons of Jacob would be destroyed. 
With regard to the text, God’s “repentance,” Christian theologians have explained already many years ago, that this is an “anthropomorphism,” that is, a description of God in human terms that are understandable to us.  The meaning is that although the sin of His people was such that God would be determined to destroy them, because of His gracious love He is determined not to destroy them.  His love overcame His threat to destroy.  In reality, He never was determined to destroy.  The punishment of their sin would be suffered by the Savior.  God’s justice would be satisfied by the Redeemer.  God is unchanging in His love to the elect. (DJE, 22/08/2018)



John Calvin (1509-1564)

[Source: Comm. On Hosea 11:8-9, emphasis added]

If one objects and says, that this statement militates against many others which we have observed, the answer is easy, and the solution has already been adduced in another place, and I shall now only touch on it briefly. When God distinctly denounces ruin on the people, the body of the people is had in view; and in this body there was then no integrity. Inasmuch, then, as all the Israelites had become corrupt, had departed from the worship and fear of God, and from all piety and righteousness, and had abandoned themselves to all kinds of wickedness, the Prophet declares that they were to perish without any exception. But when he confines the vengeance of God, or moderates it, he has respect to a very small number; for, as it has been already stated, corruption had never so prevailed among the people, but that some seed remained. Hence, when the Prophet has in view the elect of God, he applies then these consolations, by which he mitigates their terror, that they might understand that God, even in his extreme rigour, would be propitious to them. Such is the way to account for this passage.



More to come! (DV)


For a sermon on this passage by Rev. Carl Haak, minister of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church, in Hudsonville, Michigan, see the following:

Title: “The Love that Will Not Let Us Go”
Scripture Text: Hosea 11:1-11
Date: 26th July 2015
Venue: Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF), Limerick, Ireland.

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