Cesar Milan’s new reality series is called Leader of the Pack. In this show, Cesar rehabilitates a shelter dog with problems, and then tries to find the right “pack leader” for the dog. He believes that dogs need rules, boundaries, and limitations in order to be healthy. As humans, we too need rules, boundaries, and limitations! In this Sunday’s passage we read Joshua 5. Moses has died and Joshua is chosen to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. The people had been wandering in the wilderness because they had refused to trust God and obey His command to enter Canaan 40 years ago. In Joshua 5, they are on the edge of the Promised Land again and their enemies, having heard of God’s mighty deeds, are afraid of the Israelites.
So the people have time to pause before the conquest begins. During this time, three special events occur. In the first event, Joshua is called to circumcise the men. The generation growing up during the wilderness wanderings had not been circumcised. So now, God is calling this new generation to trust and obedience, to follow God’s rules, boundaries, and limitations. The ritual of circumcision had been given by God to Abraham and his descendants to signify they were the people of God. It was a physical sign of the commitment to cut off sin and to be holy. This first event is a reaffirmation of their willingness to trust and obey.
The second event is a reminder of God’s power, deliverance, and providence. Before the conquest begins, the people celebrate the Passover. Passover is the feast that God instituted to commemorate the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. God rescued the Israelites from the death of their firstborn sons when the Israelites painted the doorframes of their homes in Egypt with the blood of a lamb. God has the power to deliver them from slavery and death, and they need to remember that they are God’s people!
The third event is a reminder of who is the true leader of Israel. Joshua has a visit from a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, who comes as the commander of the army of the Lord. Joshua did not need to bear the heavy burden and responsibility of leadership alone.
These events remind us, too, that we need to follow God’s rules, boundaries, and limitations. We no longer need to be physically circumcised, but we need to have a circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29) and be committed to living a holy life by the Spirit. We also need to remember God’s saving power for us in Christ, the pure, spotless Lamb who died for our sins. And lastly, we need to remember that our true leader is Jesus Christ and we must willingly surrender to His leadership in our lives.