The Essence of Religion
Ezekiel 46:13-15
You shall daily prepare a burnt offering to the LORD of a lamb of the first year without blemish: you shall prepare it every morning.

Inasmuch as true religion is a daily help and solace to men, it was needful to impress this upon the minds of the Jews by a daily sacrifice. In order to obtain the highest good from God, we must dedicate our whole self to God. It is in giving that we receive. Our interests and God's interests are not distinct; they are identical. Yet this is a difficult lesson for men to learn. They persist in judging that time taken from secular pursuits is time misspent; that money removed from material fructification is property waste. Surely God does not need our poor gifts. And if he accepts them, it is in order that they may be made channels of blessing to the worshipper. The essence of religion is hearty self-sacrifice.

I. RELIGION CONSISTS IN COMPLETE SELF-CONSECRATION. The burnt offering was wholly consumed. Outward and formal acts of worship do not constitute acceptable religion. The ceremony may only be the show and not the substance, the shell without the kernel, the body without the soul, the channel without a living stream of love. If love be the central germ of piety, then love constrains the dedication to God of all I am - all I have. Such dedication is only reasonable. I cannot lay my finger on any organ of my body, or on any virtue in my soul, or on any item of my substance, which does not belong to God by right; hence in completest consecration I only fulfill my obligation; I give no more than is due. God has given to his children all he has - has not withheld his Son; therefore the obligation is intensified. No lesser repayment of the debt would be complete. Self-dedication is God-like. As when a man carries his gold to the royal mint that it may become current coin for exchange, he receives it back with the image and superscription of the sovereign upon it; so, when we give ourselves wholly to God, we get a nobler self; God's image is super-added. We're most our own when most completely his.

II. RELIGION IMPOSES ON MEN A PERPETUAL OBLIGATION. The burnt offering was to be repeated "every morning." The surrender of self to God is not an isolated act done once for all. It means the continuous habitude of the soul. As we open our shutters every morning or withdraw our blinds in order to let in the light, so every morning we need to open all the doorways of the soul afresh to give access to God. The tempter is ever at hand to induce us to forget God; our fleshly nature asserts itself - thrusts itself in between us and God; therefore there is daily need to renew our sacred vows. As the fields are refreshed every summer morning by another baptism of dew, so may our souls be refreshed by new communion with God. Each day God wisely requires fresh service; we cannot withhold it. Each day will bring new cares, new toils, new opportunities for making God known; therefore we require new strength. Each day God has some new blessing to convey: we should be ever ready to receive it. Self-devotement should be repeated with the dawn of every day. As new as God's gifts to us should be our dedication to him.

III. RELIGION AIMS AT PRODUCING HOLY CHARACTER. The lamb was required to be "without blemish." This was a daily and emphatic reminder that God expected, for his society and his service, a perfect character. Better still, this was a tacit promise that God would, by his gracious expedients, make us perfect. We aspire after perfection. We are ashamed of our imperfections. And we give ourselves up to God, that, by his creative Spirit, he may mould us unto perfection. This is our confident hope that perfect trust may lead to perfect holiness. By daily consecration of every thought and feeling and purpose, we shall step by step attain the likeness of our Savior. This is God's purpose, and it cannot be frustrated.

IV. RELIGION ASKS THE DEVOTEMENT OF OUR YOUNG LIFE, The daily offering consisted of a "lamb." Why this particular sacrifice was commanded can have but one explanation; viz. that our earliest years should be consecrated to God. While religion in its final end is sublime, in its essential principle it is simple enough. It is love - love to the worthiest Being, and a child has capacity to love. God takes especial interest in children. When Jesus took into his arms young infants and blessed them, he said substantially, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father!" Inasmuch as God regards things which are not as yet as though they were, he smiles with Fatherly complacency on faith in embryo - on the tiny buds of character not yet unfolded. The first breath of prayer ascends to heaven more fragrant than temple incense.

V. RELIGION REQUIRES FOR ITS ACTS DUE PREPARATION. "Thou shalt prepare." As considerable pains were required to prepare the burnt offering, so thought and self-inspection are required for acts of piety. To gain advantage and enjoyment from worship, we must bring to the exercise concentration of mind, tender feeling, intelligent expectation, steadfast trust. The farmer has to plough and pulverize his soil before he casts in his seed, and, unless our hearts have their farrows open, the seed of truth will disappear as soon as sown. The eye must be trained in order to gain vision; the hand must be trained in order to dexterous industry; so too the soul must be trained in order to enjoy high communion with God. Desultory talk is not prayer; for prayer is the outgoing of the whole man Godward. - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thou shalt daily prepare a burnt offering unto the LORD of a lamb of the first year without blemish: thou shalt prepare it every morning.

WEB: You shall prepare a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering to Yahweh daily: morning by morning you shall prepare it.

The Daily Offering
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