“Pole-Peeling” and Putting Faith in Government


Sometimes when I think a topic is done, more material comes my way to show that it is not.  Corruption in government?  Nothing new.  Neither is putting faith in government to solve all of our problems.  Since all human governments tend towards corruption, where does that leave that faith?

It is interesting to note that Samuel was perhaps the greatest judge of Israel.  The people had faith in him.  However, wasn’t their faith supposed to be in God instead?  Samuel was also the last of the great judges.  He appointed his sons as judges, but they became corrupt.  In spite of their father being a great man of God, they became greedy and forsook God’s ways.  They literally took bribes.  The people longed for something different, and this gave them the opportunity to demand something “better”.

Over time, it has become more and more clear to me that it is the world’s way to look to kings, senators, representatives, governors and presidents to solve all of their problems, bring world peace and prosperity to all.  It has become more and more clear to me that the world looks upon structures like monarchy, democracy, communism, socialism or dictatorships as the end-all and be-all of bringing the right people to power to solve every problem under the sun.  Ultimately, that faith in human government and in manmade traditions is going to result in a return to emperor worship that will consume the entire world and lead to a war so horrific that Jesus said it would be a time unlike any before or after it.

Yet, unfortunately, there are those in the Church with the disease of seeking governmental structures as well.  God isn’t interested in forms of government.  He is interesting in Who you are putting in charge of your life and what you have control over.  The how is not a structure of government at all.  The how is for people to develop the ability to govern themselves according to God’s Law.  Then, it doesn’t matter who is placed over whom or how they are appointed – as long as they are placed there by God.

Consider why we should give honor to the king, even if that king is a mad Roman Emperor (1Pe 2:17).  Consider Paul’s instructions for even slaves to give honor to God by obeying their masters (Ep 6:5-6).  The lesson is not that monarchies are the correct structure or that slavery is a good thing.  The lesson is that a future ruler in God’s Kingdom must first learn obedience to The King.  The exact circumstances, the exact structure and the details of what God brings to pass in your life do not matter nearly as much as how you choose to react to them.  If you learn this type of obedience, then however Christ organizes His Kingdom when He returns will be acceptable because that is not as important as obeying Him in all things.

Things like politics and forms of government are “pole-peeling”.

I came across an interesting article today on Bible.org by Bob Deffinbaugh called “Give Us a King! (1 Samuel 8:1-22)”.  He relates how Jacob goes to his uncle Laban’s house and after 14 years his wages are set as being the striped, spotted and speckled goats as well as the black lambs.

Jacob is not content to settle for the few rare instances in which such a goat or lamb will be born, so he sets out to manipulate matters so the odds will be more in his favor. He bases his entire operation upon the premise that the color of the offspring of Laban’s flocks can be influenced by the environment in which the offspring are conceived and carried. And so Jacob busies himself with peeling poles. Peeling the bark off of the poles exposes white stripes on the poles. These stripped poles are then placed wherever the flocks eat, water, and breed.

It really seems to work! Jacob’s flocks are growing, while Laban’s flocks are not. Jacob works harder and harder at his project, prospering all the time. Jacob seems to sincerely believe God is blessing his “pole-peeling” efforts. Laban and his sons notice, and they do not like it at all. Jacob sees and hears the anger of Laban’s sons. God instructs Jacob to leave Paddan-aram and return to the land of his fathers. As Jacob sets out to convince his wives that they must leave this place, he tells of a dream God has given him. In the dream, Jacob sees a flock of goats in the time of mating and notices that the males which mate are striped, speckled and mottled. The angel of God calls this to his attention, telling him that it is He who has brought about Jacob’s prosperity with his flocks.

I wonder how long it takes for this to dawn on Jacob. The prosperity of Jacob’s flocks had nothing to do with the poles he peeled and carefully placed by those which were breeding and carrying offspring. The offspring of Laban’s flocks are striped, speckled, and mottled because God caused the striped, speckled, and mottled males to mate. Jacob’s prosperity is not the work of his own hands; in fact, all of his pole-peeling has been a waste of time. Jacob prospers because God causes him to prosper, and this God does by causing the striped, speckled, and mottled males to mate more than the others.

Deffinbaugh then compares Jacob’s pole-peeling to the Israelites carrying the Ark of the Covenant into battle in the beginning of 1 Samuel.  They are losing in their fight against the Philistines, so they get the idea that taking the Ark into battle with them will act like some sort of talisman against losing.  Of course, it does not work.  It is merely pole-peeling, placing faith in something other than God Himself.

Deffinbaugh then calls Israel’s demand (and I concur with his use of this word) for a king “pole-peeling” as well.  Israel is once again shifting their focus onto something other than God.  They want a human king.

Overall, Deffinbaugh’s article is a pretty sound one, and it is one I am suggesting you read, in spite of him going off on a minor “grace” trek.  There are one or two things left to be said about Israel’s desire for a king in a future article.  However, for now, consider:

1. Israel’s desire for a king may in some respects be understandable.  However, it probably was a desire based upon fear rather than faith.

2. Israel should have understood that God was their King, and even that the covenant between them and God was like the contracts between kings of that region and their subjects.

3. There was a cost involved in setting up yet another layer of human government.  How well have human governments handled their costs of running their countries lately?  However, Israel did not want to give up things they thought was important (such as their idols), and so they wanted a king to do it all for them.  They wanted to replace God and Samuel both with a different kind of idol – a king.

In discussing this text, a friend of mine remarked something like this: “If you’re shopping for a god, 10% isn’t a bad price.” He’s right. If you get a real “God” out of the deal, it would be a bargain. The simple fact is that when Israel pays the high price for a king, they really get very little in return. The Israelites assume that their king will make their decisions (judgments) for them, tell them what to do, and fight their battles for them. A review of Deuteronomy 28-32 should remind the Israelites that it is not their king who brings them peace and prosperity; it is their God. It is not their king who is worthy of their faith and trust and obedience (alone); it is God. They look to a king to do for them what only God can do, with or without a king. They are willing to pay a high price for something which is not really worth it.

4. Israel got what they wanted.  They wanted a king like all the other nations around them.  Deffinbaugh points out that they want their king in spite of the costs that Samuel outlines for them.  I would suggest that this even goes beyond what Deffinbaugh brings out, however, and the implications can be shocking to the modern thinker, but it would have been considered rather mundane in that day.  However, we need to put on our thinking caps and realize that there is nothing new under the sun, and Satan doesn’t really change his tactics very much.  He only adapts them to different circumstances.

That last point should send up a red flag to the danger of investing one’s emotions, money and time in human politics, and it is one worth exploring more soon.


3 thoughts on ““Pole-Peeling” and Putting Faith in Government

  • Richard Burkard on Facebook

    Have we overlooked (as your linked article does) Gen. 17:6? “Kings will come from you,” God told Abraham long before the time of Samuel. And in Gen. 35:11 God told Jacob, “kings will come from your body.” So weren’t they to be expected?

  • Big Red
    Big Red

    Well, human leaders put their shoe on one foot at a time, just like we all do. It’s a mistake to view them as some kind of messiah figures. Frankly, a lot of the idolizing comes from human greed – we get really cool stuff if we worship this guy! And he’s busy pocketing really cool stuff himself.

    That’s why I favor democracy over totalitarian governments in this present world. The various greedy groups can check one another (theoretically). But it doesn’t stop the downward trend in values among the people, and that’s the lousy part.

    It’s not the form of government. It’s individuals and how they behave in the private lives.

  • Profile photo of
    John D

    @Richard: Obviously, I cannot speak for Deffinbaugh, but IMO he answered that at the end when he brought up Dt 17:

    “This text is a prophecy, and we can see that it is exactly fulfilled when the Israelites demanded a king, just like the nations. The fact that something is prophesied is not proof that what is foretold is something good and righteous. The betrayal of Judas is foretold, as well as Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. This does not mean that Judas, or the unbelieving Israelites, were right to do what they did. It only means that God wants us to know it was a part of His eternal plan.”

    I submit to you as well that most people overlook what the Genesis promises entail. Notice how Abraham was promised “kings”, plural, would be his descendants. NLT says, “I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!” Most of the world views the promises of Abraham through a very narrow lens and miss a lot of prophecy as a result. Abraham means “father of a multitude of nations“. The promise is one of many nations, not just the Jews. Of those many nations, many will have sovereign rights, they will have their own rulers rather than having others ruling over them (and indeed during much of the span of time of the ancient empires of Israel and Judah, they were sovereign until they totally stopped heeding the warnings of the prophets).

    Lastly, “expected” does not necessarily mean “approved”. We often talk about the Church as a body. We often say the spiritual Church cannot be divided. If the Church was not meant to be divided, then what is the physical parallel? Was mankind ever truly meant to be divided, or is God building one united family?

    Something to chew on, no?

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