"There but for the grace of God go I." We all have likely thought or said these words when encountering someone particularly down in his fortunes. Usually the person has inflicted the hardship upon himself, and the thought occurs to us that our sins and mistakes could have led us to the same end.
The axiom, however, may often be more accurate when we are viewing those who have achieved great power, riches, and notoriety. Nebuchadnezzer, king of Persia, had reached such a lofty place of delusion.
"The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30).
God mercifully judged Nebuchaddnezzer for the king's wicked insanity, bringing him to his senses. Many rulers, however, are allowed to continue in their folly because there is no heart in them that would repent even if the living and true God brought great judgment upon them. Sadly their day will come. When considering these seemingly powerful ones, therefore, it may be more than appropriate to think or say, "There but for the grace of God go I."
The powerful, wealthy, and notable often have more opportunity to act out the delusion that exists in the flesh of every human being. "Ye shall be as gods" said Satan to Eve (Genesis 3:5). When she and Adam believed the devil and disobeyed God, the flesh of humanity became infected with a delusion that is difficult for most people to act out in many ways. The Lord brought hindrance and difficulty to the human experience in order to counter the notion of our personal divinity. We still express it in many ways, of course, but the thorns and sorrow of life in a fallen world tell us continually that something is amiss in our thinking, and even more, in our hearts.
The powerful, however, have far more reign in acting out the delusion. Their ability to control things and people, their notoriety, and their access to abundance tell them day by day that not only shall they be as gods, but that they are gods. They may not literally think in such terms, but their attitudes and actions reveal the delusion of their perceived divinity. Great and terrible destruction awaits in the future, but for now, the world seems to kneel and confirm the delusion. Ultimately, "there but for the grace of God go I" may therefore be more appropriately directed toward those whose earthly power seems to confirm the devilish notion, "ye shall be as gods."
David understood this and prayed, "Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men" (Psalm 9:20). We do well to pray the same for those whose very lifebreath comes from God, but who think themselves to be self sufficient. All too soon the truth will be known, and for many who proudly boast in their supposed power, influence, and riches, it will be too late. "There but for the grace of God go I."
"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His anointed, saying, let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure."