Hedge of Protection. [hej əv prə·TEK·šən, noun] A metaphor representing God’s defense against evil. Sometimes called a “hedge of thorns.”
You may have come across this particular Christianese term during prayer meetings: “And Lord, we just wanna ask for a hedge of protection around Sparky….” Frequently it’s a request made about a wayward loved one who’s sinning, and because they want the sinner to stop it, Christians pray that God put up his heavenly force field around that person to keep the sin out. Some Christians make it “a hedge of thorns,” just to make it extra hard for sin to get through.
Where does this idea come from? The bible. The idea of a hedge around someone comes from Job, in which Satan is complaining that of course Job’s a good man and worships (i.e. “fears”) God; God’s unfairly shielding him from evil.
Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!
—Satan, Job 1.9-11 NKJV
Hedges nowadays have to do with shrubbery, but in King James English a hedge refers to any wall, whether of bushes or of stones. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for such hedges around yourself. Part of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Rescue us from the evil one,” (Mt 6.13) or from evil itself; we want God’s hedge around us, if at all possible.
But note, as with Job, that God can put it up or take it down as he wishes.
Okay, thus far we’re talking about the willing followers of God. What about the unwilling? Like I said, Christians tend to pray for hedges around sinners. Is there biblical precedent for that? Yes. In Hosea, God complains through his prophet about how unfaithful Israel is, and compares the nation to a wife who has left him in order to become a prostitute. (Kinda parallel with Hosea and his own wife.) God’s solution:
I will hedge up your way with thorns,
And wall her in,
So that she cannot find her paths.
She will chase her lovers,
But not overtake them;
Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.
Then she will say,
“I will go and return to my first husband,
For then it was better for me than now.”
—The LORD, Hosea 2.6-7 NKJV
Since God said he was gonna wall up Israel’s path with a hedge of thorns, Christians figure he could probably do likewise with our own straying loved ones. So we pray for that.
Now by this, does this mean there’s a literal barrier, some kind of spiritual force field, between us and evil? I doubt it, just like I doubt that the armor of God refers to literal spiritual armor. (Ep 6.10-17) I expect it’s more like God provides us with resources to defend ourselves from evil, and the metaphor of hedges and armor are just useful ways to describe them. Whatever’s beyond our own ability to defend, God directs away from us. Sometimes he gets other Christians or angels involved. However he goes about doing it, when he goes about doing it, it works.
Various Christians teach that God would never, ever interfere with human free will. I’m not one of them. Besides, even those who believe God doesn’t interfere with free will, seem to have no trouble praying for God to interfere with sinners, and stop them from doing what their free will seems bound and determined to do. There’s tons of precedent for those sorts of prayers throughout the bible. The Psalms are full of prayers for God to stop enemies, and maybe destroy them while he’s at it.
Of course, the best way for God to destroy an enemy is to convert them, like he did with Paul of Tarsus. So let’s pray for that.