So it’s once again All Saints Eve, Reformation Day, or Halloween as most call it. This is one of those many days in our culture now that has virtually no meaning left to it whatsoever, except for that blip on the balance sheets of Target and Walmart. Ah the great machine of capitalism that can turn virtually any historic, religious, or memorable occasion into a commercial venture (just ask Linus). Thus the box stores have succeeded in extracting all true meaning, and have replaced it with the idol of consumerism we all (or most) willingly participate in every day the calendar says to do so. I have family members who like Halloween for it’s decorations of fall and Goth appeal, (those people from that barbaric uncultured Germanic tribe called The Goths who wreaked havoc on the Romans). And I have family members who hate Halloween for the celebration of Satanic rituals and the like (which for some reason brings back memories of the 1987 classic Dragnet and the Pagan Chief holding the ceremony to burn people at the stake). And both parties are represented in my church, and in most churches today.
I really think Halloween at this point in our culture has no meaning left at all, so why bother at all is my point I guess. Generally, no body knows the historical origins anymore, at least not without looking it up, and our society overall has successfully removed any and all understanding of a spiritual world that works around us at all times. Evil spirits are now likened to only exist in people’s minds who are uneducated, or live in some far off land like Africa. A real, but unseen, spiritual world where angels and demons exist, defies science and the educated mind today, and the more we rely on ourselves and our own wisdom, the less we see of the spiritual world at work.
From that, I take you to a very interesting part of 1 Samuel (at least as it relates to Halloween in our world today), and King Saul’s pursuit of David. In 1 Samuel 28, after a long mind battle with David, the future king of Israel, Saul is desperate to kill David and is facing an impending Philistine invasion. After inquiring of God, and getting no answer, he goes to find a medium (a person who is or can call the spirit of a dead person) to try to talk to the dead prophet Samuel. This is not going to be a long exegetical look at 1 Samuel 28, but go read this short chapter and see what happened.
- Saul previously removed all the mediums and necromancers (v.3)
- Saul disguises himself (in a costume) to go see a medium (v.8)
- Saul asks to speak with the dead (v.8-9)
- Saul swears by the Lord’s name (v.10)
- The medium, for some reason, is allowed by God to call up Samuel from the dead (v.12-13)
- The medium is startled, perhaps because this was different than at any other time (v.12)
- Samuel is recognizable to Saul (v.14)
- Samuel questions Saul (“why have you disturbed me?”) (v.15)
- Samuel reiterates that God is now his enemy (v.16)
- Samuel delivers a prophecy of Saul’s impending death along with his sons (v.19)
There is so much in that one set of verses. It isn’t placed here to show a séance is acceptable, but rather that this activity was sin, something that was forbidden by Mosaic law (Lev 19.31, Deut 18.10, and 1 Sam 15.23). It does suggest that in certain circumstances, a medium can contact the dead, and not just that of an evil spirit as an evil spirit would not deliver a true prophecy to Saul. The overall point is that Saul did not seek the Lord, he sinned by going after the dead, something that ultimately caused his own death (see 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
In our 21st century culture in regards to tonight’s celebration of Halloween, I’m not sure which is worse. Blindly going along with Halloween without questioning it’s true origins, or shutting your house to any and all visitors in the name of righteousness, pretending like Halloween doesn’t exist (I’m lucky, I don’t have to do either since I have no neighbors [haha]). Look what Luther did, he didn’t hide out on this night. On this night 495 years ago he made a pretty bold statement, and there is no way you can look at the 95 Thesis and call it a coincidence that Luther posted that on the door of the church on October 31st, 1517.
Reformation Day is officially on October 31st of course, but I don’t think Walmart is going to have a sale on Luther’s 95 Thesis in the magazine rack, oh well.