President George H.W. Bush — and the Vital Need for Godly Leadership

As a pastor in Texas for many decades, the loss of President Bush hits me hard. It also brings to mind a biblical principle about “thorn tree leadership.”

By Mike Hayes Published on December 6, 2018

This week, our country celebrates the life and mourns the loss of our 41st President, George H. W. Bush. As one who has lived in Texas most of my life and interacted with the Bush family at times, the loss feels personal.

May this national time of mourning serve as a clarion call for you and me to remember the significant need for strong leaders. We need men and women with lives of service like the late President Bush and a call to lead in our nation.

Will you join me today in praying for God to continually raise up godly statesmen and women in our nation?

A Haunting Allegory from Scripture

In my new book Renewal: 4 Ways to Change Your Life and Our Nation, near the end I share an important parable. Taken straight from Judges 9:8-15, this passage illustrates the vital need for godly leadership.

“One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’ 

Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’ But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’ But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’ 

Finally, all the trees said to the thorn bush, ‘Come and be our king.’ The thorn bush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thorn bush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’”

Summing Up the Story

This allegory details the condition that often exists today in America. As in the story, we inherently seek to be led. We see the trees in the story asking, “Be our king.”

But when the olive tree, fig tree, and the grape vine all refuse because they aren’t willing to leave their fruitful pursuits, the trees turn to the thorn tree. Only too happy to be asked, it offers only deception. “Come and enjoy my shade,” it lies.

We see the trees in the story asking, “Be our king.” Today in America, people inherently seek to be led.

Its sparse, prickly branches do not offer shade; its thorns only prick fingers and draw blood. Then, revealing its inner lack of values and its ego-driven cruelty, the thorn tree says, “And if you won’t, let fire come out from me and destroy the Cedars of Lebanon!”

When the thorn tree doesn’t get its way, its deepest desire is manifested. This worthless thorn tree threatens to destroy with its wrath the finest trees in the world.

Interpreting What It Means

This is a tragic picture of what often happens in leadership at every level in our nation. When fruitful, honest, faithful, values-driven men and women filled with character and wisdom refuse the offer and responsibility to serve, it opens the door of opportunity to the immoral, inept, and self-serving to step up.

They are only too happy to fulfill their drive for power and recognition at the expense of the principles and values this nation was founded upon, which stand like the “mighty cedars of Lebanon.” So we sit by as the cedars burn, set ablaze by “thorn tree leadership.”

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We talk about the days when men of character like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to lead a fledgling nation toward greatness. What about us? When will we be willing to answer the call to lead?

How long will we chase personal comfort at the expense of national renewal? When did the “American Dream” become a life of personal wealth only realized by the super-rich?

What if we made our personal vision of the American Dream a nation filled with wisdom, kindness, generosity, justice, and mercy?

Making It Personal

Renewal by Mike Hayes

Renewal by Mike Hayes

Can I ask you a personal question? What about you? Are your personal pursuits one and the same with your calling and divine purpose?

The world cries out to be led. If good people refuse, those who only offer empty promises and pain are happy to take their place. 

This is my prayer for our nation today …

Father, as our nation remembers the life of her 41st president and mourns his passing, we pray that you would raise up a new generation of righteous statesmen and women in this land.  

 Jesus, build Your Church and advance renewal in our nation through godly leaders with Your heart and Your vision. We unite together in prayer for a new wave of passionate leaders — filled with integrity, marked by diversity, and characterized by humble devotion to You. May these leaders ‘restore the foundations’ of our nation and usher in a great renewal!  

Holy Spirit, I surrender to Your call to be a part of that army! I say “yes” to the call to lead in my sphere of influence! Let Your Kingdom be advanced in our city, nation, and world! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

If you ever hear a call to lead, I pray you find the grace and strength to step up and say as the prophet in ancient times, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).


This article is excerpted from the new book Renewal by Mike Hayes, which is now available. Explore The Stream’s complete coverage honoring the late President George H. W. Bush.

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