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The use of an umbrella to symbolize protection is commonly understood and accepted. In the insurance industry, an overall coverage of protection is referred to as an “umbrella policy.” In the Bible, similar symbols teach the concepts of provision, protection, headship, and leadership.
The use of this symbol in relation to the family is to give special encouragement to fathers to protect, instruct, lead, and provide for their wives, sons, and daughters. It is also to remind the family that no father is perfect, but as they pray for him and encourage him, they can increase his ability and motivation to fulfill his God-given responsibilities.
In addition to the father, Scripture has other umbrella analogies: The cloud of protection that God gave to Israel during their forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21–22), the shadow of God’s hand over His people (Isaiah 51:15–16), “the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1), and the wings of a mother hen (Matthew 23:37).
Understanding the umbrella concept increases our love for God and assures us of His love, protection, and provision for us as His children.
Under each umbrella of protection, God sets in place the leadership of His choice, just as He placed Moses in leadership under the “umbrella” over Israel. So, under each umbrella of protection, God raises up and establishes the human leadership to represent Him before the people. These leaders become our human umbrellas, accountable to God for the stewardship of their responsibilities.
For 40 years, God gave protection and direction to the nation of Israel through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud moved, they moved. Those who lagged behind were attacked by their enemies and destroyed (see Deuteronomy 1:33 and 25:17–19). In addition to God’s cloudy umbrella of protection, He provided leadership through Moses. When the people murmured again Moses, they were actually murmuring against God, as He stated, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?” (Numbers 14:27).
The symbol of a mother hen with her chicks also speaks of God’s umbrella of protection over His people. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:37–38).
In spite of the many ordeals that the Apostle Paul suffered under the hand of the pagan Roman government, he still affirmed that everyone was subject to a higher authority (see Romans 13). The government leaders were to be God’s protection for the people and, in turn, the people were to intercede in prayer for the leaders. Scripture states, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13–15; see also 1 Timothy 2:1–2).
There was a further symbol of protection in the Roman army. It was the shield carried by the soldiers. As they advanced to a walled city, they would lift these large, door-like shields above their heads and protect themselves from all the flaming arrows coming from those on top of the wall. This symbol is referred to in Ephesians 6:16: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
It is significant that God used the analogy of the physical body with its head to illustrate the relationship that all the members of the Body are to have in the Church, with Christ as the Head. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15–16).
God also provided leadership for His people for the ultimate purpose of building up each member. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
God also uses the example of a shepherd with a hedge of protection for his sheep. “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:2–4). The shepherd was to make a hedge of protection around the sheep, which consisted of stones or thornbushes. It had no door, so the shepherd became the door and guarded the flock.
The responsibility of protection is one of the primary functions of headship. This is true of the head of a church, the head of a family, the head of state, and the head of a company.
Headship also involves levels of responsibility. In business, there are management levels. In government, there are jurisdictional levels. And in the military, there are ranks of authority; each one operates under a “chain of command” from the head.
Jesus added an important new dimension to the concept of headship when He explained that those who were in positions of authority must learn how to be servant to all those for whom they are responsible. He demonstrated this paradox by laying down His life for the world. He challenges husbands to follow His example in their responses to their wives (see Ephesians 5).
Scripture identifies the concept of headship in Creation, and its levels, in the following passage. “I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3; see also Ephesians 5:23).
The same relationship that God established for believers in Christ is to be carried out between the husband and wife. The headship of the husband is compared to the headship of Christ, and just as Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church, so the husband is to lay down his life for his wife (see Ephesians 5:23–25).
The family of the Church and the family of the father are also related in respect to leadership and protection. “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5).
The rewards of children staying under the protection of their parents are described in the fifth commandment and reaffirmed in Ephesians 6:2–3. “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” There are also serious consequences for any son or daughter who gets out from under this protection. “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (Proverbs 30:17).
The headship protection that God wants to build for each family is spoken of in the Book of Job. “Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an 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” (Job 1:9–10).
All these examples and illustrations explain what is meant by umbrellas of protection. God is our ultimate “umbrella.” However, just as He delegates responsibility to those in various jurisdictions, so He also gives them the responsibility to be an umbrella of protection for those under their care.
All human “umbrellas” have faults and limitations. For this reason, those under authority are instructed to pray for them. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1–4).
Copyright © 2002–2011, William (Bill) Gothard. All Rights Reserved.