Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.
Nebuchadnezzar is here represented as gathering the people into his net, and then, forgetting that he was only an instrument, doing homage to his own power and skill, as though they had won for him the victory.
1. The most numerous illustrations of this spirit are those which may be found in the conduct of our secular work. The ungodliness of the daily life of men is a fact too manifest to be disputed. They see in every increase of their wealth and power a fresh evidence of their skill and strength; and, intoxicated with pride or vanity, burn incense only to their own net. Among those who bear the Christian name there are evidences only too palpable of its presence and power, now prone are we, in secular matters, to forget the relation in which we stand to God. The precept, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him," is either wholly ignored, or its application restricted to special spiritual exercises and duties. We need a more thorough and pervading sense of God's presence, and our reliance on Him to penetrate our lives. The danger is one to which we are specially liable in an age when the science and industry of man have achieved so much. Science has unveiled so many secrets of nature that we begin to fancy that there is nothing so hidden that the same skill may not drag it from its retreat. It is not wonderful that man should deify intellect, and forgetful of Him from whom comes every talent, should ask, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" Everywhere, in fact, do we see men thus exalting themselves and their own wisdom. They would fain put God out of His own world, by enthroning man in His place. To correct these godless views of life, God, from time to time, sends us solemn and emphatic warnings of His power and our dependence. The wise hear the rod, and who hath appointed it. Judgment instructs those whom the gentler voice of mercy did not reach.
2. Mark the development of this spirit in our spiritual life. Much apparently Christian service would not abide the Master's test, because so much of this earthly element enters into the spirit by which it is inspired. Is there not too often a disposition to trust in the wisdom of our plans and the efficiency of our instruments, rather than in that blessing which alone can make rich? Self-reliance, self-conceit, self-exaltation, self-seeking, self-worship, are evils that intrude even into religious institutions.
(1) This spirit may reveal itself in the motives that induce activity in the service of the Church. Love to Christ is the only true and enduring motive of all Christian labour. But we may work to extend our party rather than to glorify God. There is danger in mere sectional attachments. Our motives may be more directly personal. We may labour only to gratify our own ambition or fancy. Our vanity may be pleased by the rich incense of flattery. Our desire for power may be gratified by the influence we gain over other men. There are tests which we may all employ with advantage to prove the character of our work.
(2) The spirit displays itself in regard to the modes of Christian labour. There are two opposite extremes against which we have to guard. There are not a few who are crying out for a new Gospel. There are those who are sticklers not only for truth, but for the very phrases in which it is set forth. These two parties are wide as the poles asunder, yet they agree in this — they are both burning incense to their own net.
(3) This spirit may reveal itself in the way in which we regard the results of Christian labour. In the hour of success we think more of the efficiency of the instrument than of the grace of the Divine Spirit. The greatest talent is insufficient if alone. We want all the power that Christians possess sanctified to Christ. We want to see the most perfect instrumentality, but we want something beyond that. There is no real power unless the Spirit of God be in our midst.
(J. Guinness Rogers, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.