hedges

A Hedge of Protection

 

The phrase “hedge of protection” is one of those sayings that can be classified as “Christianese”, or the language of specific words or phrases given Christian meaning and used in Christian circles.  It’s a phrase you’re likely to hear when someone is praying, “Put a hedge of protection around so and so”.  It may be more commonly heard from charismatic churches or backgrounds and it is typically employed in the context of spiritual warfare.  I suppose their biblical basis for this saying may be drawn from Job 1:10 where in that context Satan proposes that Job is untouchable because God has placed a “hedge of protection” around him.  So it’s not to say that this is an unbiblical or bad saying, even though its overused and probably abused.  However, what if there was another way to think of a hedge of protection.  Not one so much focused on protection from Satan, as with Job, but one erected by God to protect us from ourselves.

Generally speaking a hedge acts as a barrier to either mark a boundary or as an added layer of protection.  Used in this way it typically serves to keep what’s on the outside of the hedge, outside.  Rarely is it considered to keep what’s on the inside, inside.  But that is exactly how God uses this term through the prophetic message of Hosea.

“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.” Hosea 2:6

In the passage above, God is outlining His pending judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel by way of analogy with the relationship between Hosea and his wife of whoredom, Gomer.  As the threats of desolation unfold, we see God’s promise to “hedge up her way with thorns” with application, by way of the developing analogy, to Israel.  Verse 7 makes an important addition and clarification, “She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.”

Here we see that the hedge of protection is not like the hedge that we hear so often in prayers or even the one referenced above from Job.  Instead, this hedge is for the purpose of keeping Israel from her lovers, namely the idolatrous relationships that she has so wantonly pursued and the syncretistic manner in which she has co-opted the religion handed down by God.  Thinking of it in this way, the hedge is not for the purpose of defending Israel from threats from the outside, but for defending Israel from threats from the inside and preventing her from acting on the adulteries of the heart.

Israel’s plight is not isolated to the 8th Century B.C.  If, like Calvin has said, our hearts are idol factories then we are in far greater need of a hedge to protect us from acting on these sinful desires.  Perhaps our tendency is to see ourselves too often as Job, the righteous sufferer in need of a hedge of protection from Satan and not more accurately as wanton Israel in need of a hedge of protection from the idolatries of our hearts.  Perhaps our prayers should reflect the recognition of this enemy within more often than to assume our greatest threat is from the outside.

Oh how in need we are of Almighty God to hedge us in from acting on our sinful desires, preventing us from conceiving with them to bring forth sin.  John Owen captures the intentions of sin and expresses well our need to be hedged in,

“sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, if it has its own way it will go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could, every thought of unbelief would be atheism if allowed to develop. Every rise of lust, if it has its way reaches the height of villainy; it is like the grave that is never satisfied. The deceitfulness of sin is seen in that it is modest in its first proposals but when it prevails it hardens men’s hearts, and brings them to ruin.”

Additionally, may we note that as God hedges against acting on unholy desires, He also redirects those desires towards Himself.  The second half of Hoses 2:7 reflects this well, “Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’”  As a result of the hedge, Israel would be unable to pursue her lovers and would consequently turn back to her Husband.  In the midst of judgment they would find mercy.

May this be the case with us; that our hearts would be kept from idols and our desires redirected to all-satisfying Savior.

May our hearts sing with the Psalmist, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins” Ps. 19:13a

May sin not have its own way in us.

And may God’s restraining hand act always as a hedge of protection against the idolatrous desires of our hearts.

Video: Covenant Distinctions Dispensationalism vs. LBC

 

Following up the previous post on the history of Covenant Theology, where the development of dispensational theology in America was described, the video below gives a helpful overview of the theological distinctions between dispensationalism and Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology, also  called 1689 Federalism, as outlined in the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession.

 

Fool

Who is the Fool

 

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” Psalm 14:1

We live in an age not unlike others before ours where skepticism and her offspring atheism and agnosticism fuel the worldviews of the day. If one were not able to observe the course of church history to note the recurrence of these views, often followed by times of refreshment or revival, it would be easy to get discouraged over the foolishness of the 21st century.

Though surveys may be unreliable and most are certainly unworthy of attention, a recent Pew Research survey revealed the rise of “religious nones” or those who identify as atheist or agnostic. The survey revealed that from 2007 to 2014 the religious unaffiliated had risen from 16% to 23% of the U.S. population, or roughly 55 million people out of which the vast majority (70%) were from the millennial generation (those born from 1980s-2000s). During this same period, those identifying as Christians dropped from 78% to 71% and one is left to suspect if the actual number of true Christians isn’t significantly lower than those who merely identify with Christianity in name only.

In the Psalm cited above, David, writing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, conducts his own survey of the religious landscape and finds that the “religious nones” of his day were fools who were corrupt and did abominable deeds, summarizing that “there is none who does good.”

Calvin notes that the Hebrew word for fool conveys the idea of a “perverse, vile or contemptible person”. Commenting further, he writes

“all profane persons, who have cast off all fear of God and abandoned themselves to iniquity, are convicted of madness. David does not bring against his enemies the charge of common foolishness, but rather inveighs against the folly and insane hardihood of those whom the world accounts eminent for their wisdom. We commonly see that those who, in the estimation both of themselves and of others, highly excel in sagacity and wisdom, employ their cunning in laying snares, and exercise the ingenuity of their minds in despising and mocking God. It is therefore important for us, in the first place, to know, that however much the world applaud these crafty and scoffing characters, who allow themselves to indulge to any extent in wickedness, yet the Holy Spirit condemns them as being fools; for there is no stupidity more brutish than forgetfulness of God.”

The declaration that there is no God is not said to be in an outward response to a survey, but in the innermost, intimate part of a person, the heart. This is nonetheless blasphemy against an all holy God. In Mark 7:20-23 we learn that it is in the heart where all manner of evil arises

“And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Truly the heart, as Calvin has so famously noted, is an idol factory and it is here where the fool declares that there is no God. An outward profession of this, whether it be in blatantly associating with agnosticism, atheism, or an outright life in defiance to God, originates in idolatry and blasphemy of the heart. Perhaps without even knowing it those “religious nones” who participated in the Pew Research poll have committed nothing less than blasphemy against the very One who gave them life.

We live in an age where belief in evolution or denying the existence of God is seen as intelligence, far above the low-browed faith of Christians. The sad reality of sin is that it so corrupts and distorts that it causes the creature to worship itself rather than the Creator, which isn’t intelligence at all, but psuedo-intellectualism or foolishness.

Turning again to Calvin,

“They may not plainly deny the existence of a God, but they imagine him to be shut up in heaven, and divested of his righteousness and power; and this is just to fashion an idol in the room of God. As if the time would never come when they will have to appear before him in judgment, they endeavor, in all the transactions and concerns of their life, to remove him to the greatest distance, and to efface from their minds all apprehension of his majesty. And when God is dragged from his throne, and divested of his character as judge, impiety has come to its utmost height; and, therefore, we must conclude that David has most certainly spoken according to truth, in declaring that those who give themselves liberty to commit all manner of wickedness, in the flattering hope of escaping with impunity, deny in their heart that there is a God.”

The tragedy of this All Fools Day is not global warming, the political landscape, or the economy rather the increase of fools, those who say in their heart there is no God. Nothing short of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can remedy the malady of our day. Find a fool and share the Gospel, the research shows the search shouldn’t be too difficult.

 

 

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/13/a-closer-look-at-americas-rapidly-growing-religious-nones/

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"