The Long Walk Word on the Week 4th December 2021.
A picture of our President honouring a local fundraiser with the Distinguished Service Award was indicative of the fellow feeling that exists between the Irish and Native American people. Doreen McPaul had raised money for the Navajo who are experiencing extreme hardship caused by the Covid pandemic.
The Navajo have a long history of persecution. This culminated with their being caught up in the American Civil War. The Military Commanders of the Union Army decided that “recent occurrences in the Navajo country have so demoralized and broken up the nation that there is now no choice between their absolute extermination or their removal and colonization at points so remote…as to isolate them entirely from the inhabitants of the Territory”!
The “Long Walk” of 400 miles started in the beginning of spring 1864. Bands of Navajo led by the Army were relocated from their traditional lands in eastern Arizona Territory and western New Mexico Territory to Fort Sumner in the Pecos River valley. The march was difficult and pushed many Navajos to their breaking point, including death. The distance itself was cruel, but the fact that they did not receive any aid from the soldiers was devastating.
Few Government promises were kept. Perhaps the inclusion of the rainbow in the Navajo flag indicates faith in God’s promises!
The Bible maps out the 40-year pilgrimage from Egypt to Canaan. During that time God guided his people despite their many acts of unfaithfulness. They experienced His love and justice but despite all that He had done for them they still grumbled and at times would have wished to go back to Egypt (Exodus Chapter 16 verses 2 to 4).
Psalm 78 gives a summary of the journey. It poses the peoples question, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” Food was never far from their minds and tested their faith daily. “Man eats the bread of angels” (verse 25). He struck the rock so that water gushed out (verse 20) and they drank.
The manna – literally ‘what is it’ – was provided daily (Exodus Chapter 16 verse 31 to 35). Water came from the rock (Exodus Chapter 17 verse 6) at Horeb. A later incident of water from the rock occurs when Moses was told to speak to the rock in front of the congregation. Instead he struck the rock twice and God graciously sent forth water. The act of disobedience cost Moses his desire to enter the promised land (Numbers Chapter 20 verse 8).
The Apostle Paul identifies the life sustaining water with Christ our Rock smitten for us at Calvary (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 verse 4) and manna remembered in the breaking of bread (Chapter 11 verses 23 to 26). Perhaps the Navajo have heard of this Bread (St John Chapter 6 verse 31/5).