We are at that time of year when many people turn their thoughts to Halloween and all that the holiday entails. Earlier today, Janet and I helped out at a “trunk or treat” event at the church where our daughter, Kristin, is on staff. Our son, Andrew, was also there and was in charge of creating the musical atmosphere for the Fall Celebration with all the kids dressed up in their costumes. There were also bounce houses, face painting and a man who made ballon creations for all the younger kids.
Three of our grandsons dressed up as well and helped make the event a roaring success. Of course, Halloween is just around the corner on Tuesday, the day before Nov. 1st that is known in many parts of the world at All Saint’s Day – or in France, Toussaint’s Day.
Halloween is the eve of the day that we remember those who have passed away during the past year and pray for them. But for many others, the spirits and goblins and witches that are part of the Halloween celebration take on a far more real persona. Years ago, in 1692 to be exact, hysteria about the existence of witches took on far more serious proportions in Salem, Massachusetts – the sight of the famous Salem witch trials that began in the summer of that year.
Although there seems to be some difference of opinion on the exact number of hangings related to the trials, it is generally believed that either 19 or 20 people were found guilty of witchcraft and subsequently executed. After several months of trials and executions, the mass public hysteria started to die down and it was on this date, October 29, 1692, that the courts established for the purposes of ferreting out witches were officially disbanded. That’s 325 years ago, today!
The beginning of the fear of witchcraft actually began hundreds of years earlier in Europe. Thousands of supposed witches were identified and punished. And just as the European craze was winding down, Salem became the US center for this supposed segment of the population. Two young girls started experiencing seizures in January, 1692, and they blamed three older women in town. Two of the three who were accused professed their innocence while the third, a former Caribbean slave, acknowledged that she had signed a paper for the devil and this fueled the frenzy in the community. All three women were jailed and the onslaught of concern for witches in the community reached a fever pitch several months later.
Salem wasn’t the only place where witchcraft was a concern. The famous Houdini was also considered someone who believed in mediums and spiritualists. He was convinced that he could contact his dead mother through the use of mediums and spent a portion of his fortune trying to debunk false mediums with a sincere desire to contact his mother through “real” people who had the gift of contacting the dead. In fact, Houdini died on Halloween in 1926 at the age of 52 and revealed to his wife that he would try to contact her after his death. Needless to say, she was never successful reaching him in the great beyond…
The Bible is very clear on the subject of mediums and spiritualists. We are told in numerous verses that this is not something that we are to do. Yet, throughout history, there are many instances when characters in the Bible have gone against the word of God and tried to consult with the dead through mediums – even though they knew it was not in the will of God.
After the death of Samuel, Saul expelled the mediums from the land. And Josiah, one of Israel’s kings, got rid of the mediums and spiritualists from Judah and Jerusalem. But in our verse for this evening, the prophet Isaiah asks a very pertinent question of the people. He asks, in Isaiah 8:19, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”
My encouragement this evening is that when you have questions, God loves it when we ask Him directly and don’t go through intermediaries. After all, as a priesthood of believers, we all have direct access to God and it is my prayer that we all will spend time growing our relationship with Jesus and trying to lead a more God centered life! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…