Until a few years ago, I had never heard anyone ask God for a “hedge of protection.” I’ve heard it a lot since then, often in reference to Covid-19. The reference would appear to be to the way thorny hedges were used to protect livestock during biblical times. I liked the idea but I have noticed that most of the time it’s invoked, it’s requested by people who have otherwise declined to do their part to look after themselves and those in their care, much less their neighbor at large.
I believe in asking for God’s help, but to ask for God’s help while at the same time refusing to take advantage of other forms of help that God has placed close at hand is something difficult for me to bear. I wanted to write a pastoral blog post advising folks not to do this. The first step was to look up where in the Bible the phrase “hedge of protection” comes from. That first step turned out to be a doozy.
I looked up the phrase in the King James Version. There is no use of the term “hedge of protection,” but the word “hedge” is used nine times. You may disagree, but to me the most likely verse to be a candidate for the origin of the term “hedge of protection” is Job 1:10. There we read “Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land” (KJV).
My first thought was that the people who started using this phrase apparently did so without reading the rest of the book of Job. Under no circumstances do I want my life story to follow Job’s narrative arc. But there’s more, these words are not spoken by God, or the devout Job, or the narrator, but by Satan. To me that’s more than enough reason to avoid using the phrase.
If someone can find another biblical reference where someone like the author of the Psalms invokes a hedge of protection, I’ll be happy to take the phrase back up, it has a nice ring to it. Until then I’m going to suggest that we stop using it. If you’re looking for a replacement, might I suggest that you ask God to extend God’s wings over you (e.g. Psalms 36:7 and 91:4). As near as I can tell, the Devil never invokes this image, but Jesus does (Matthew 23:27 and Luke 13:34).
Finally, as you invoke God’s protection, take up and use every means God has given you to protect yourself and others.