The Doctrine of Grace in the Book of Hosea 2
By Malcolm H. Watts
Did Hosea buy all the female slaves in Israel? No, he did not. He purchased only Gomer, upon whom he had already set the love of his heart. Presented to us here is the doctrine of Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption, that God in Christ died only for the elect – He purchased, not all sinners of mankind, no, not even potentially, but His beloved people whom He had chosen (John 10:15,17,18; Ephesians 5:25). As Scripture plainly says, “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Revelation 5:9). Hosea was particular in his redeeming activity, and likewise God has been particular in His.
Redemption is the act of “buying back” or “recovering by means of a stipulated payment.” It presupposes prior possession; and, just as Gomer originally belonged to Hosea but he found it necessary to pay a price for her freedom (Hosea 3:1,2), so, by virtue of election, God’s people were His from all eternity, but, when lost in sin and degradation, He was moved to buy them back with the precious blood of His Son (Job 33:24; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).
Hosea paid “fifteen pieces of silver” for Gomer (Hosea 3:2), but, in the book of Psalms, we read: “the redemption of their soul is precious.” (Psalm 49:8). Truly, not one of us can give a ransom for another. God’s redemption through Christ is far above human price and can never be accomplished by such ordinary means. It is “redemption through His blood” (Ephesians 1:7).
So we see it plainly: as Hosea was particular in his redeeming activity, so likewise God has been particular in His. He has redeemed His people from death, the grave, judgement, and hell.
Irresistible grace, or effectual calling, is also taught in this wonderful portion of Scripture.
After securing her freedom, Hosea came and spoke to Gomer, even as he said he would: “I will allure her [that is, lovingly and tenderly persuade her] … and speak comfortably to her” [using words which wonderfully comfort her heart] (Hosea 2:14). It points to the way God, in conversion, “draws” His people and “makes them willing” (Genesis 9:27; John 6:44. Psalm 110:3a).
Hosea’s words to Gomer are recorded for us: “Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee” (Hosea 3:3). We should note the force of his words, “thou shalt … thou shalt … thou shalt…” These were not weak and empty declarations, but prophetic words, indicating that Gomer’s recovery would certainly take place. This is true of God’s special call to elect sinners. This call, to be distinguished from the general call of the gospel, comes to them “not … in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance (1 Thessalonians 1:5; cf 1 Corinthians 2:4). It achieves the divine intention. It proves irresistible. It is always effectual.
In the prophet’s approach to his beloved Gomer, there was a convicting force, as he convinced her of previous wrong-doing – “Thou shalt abide with me many days; thou shat not play the harlot …” (Hosea 3:3; cf 2:6-13); and revealed to her his willingness to pardon and receive her – “Thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.” (3:3; cf. 2:14-18). The result was that she was humbled and consoled, and so affected in her heart that she embraced her ever-loving husband in a covenant never to be broken. It is even so in conversion or, to state it more accurately, in effectual calling. As the Shorter Catechism says,
Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. [Question 31].
There is a branch of it which we call “humiliation,” involving conviction of sin, but it is followed by enlightenment and persuasion and the end result is that sinners are brought into a spiritual relationship with the Son of God.
Ponder those words of chapter 3 and verse 3 – “thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.” They show that Hosea would be faithful to her, and bound to her. It is explained further, and very beautifully, in chapter 2, where the prophet is declaring what he will do – “I will betroth thee unto me for ever … I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord” (verses 19 and 20). He promises a union in marriage which will be as permanent as it is blessed. The Lord promises no less. The marriage contract with Him is an everlasting one and although there may come afflictions, temptations and even desertions, nothing shall ever separate them from Him (Romans 8:38,39).
Kept, guarded and preserved by the Lord Himself (Psalm 37:28; 66:8, 9; 97:10; 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3-5), all His chosen redeemed and called people shall endure to the end (Job 17:9; Matthew 10:22; Hebrews 12:2). Not one of them will be lost, but all of them will be saved – and saved for evermore.
The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future or things that are now.
Not all things below nor above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from His love”
Augustus Montague Toplady, 1740-17