A Dreamer whose dream came true was Joseph. One day, seventeen-year-old ‘Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more’ (Genesis 37:5). Joseph’s dreams of exaltation seemed to do him no good, and instead, he was debased and sold off to slavery in Egypt. Little did he know that the dreams were a glimpse to his future. However though, he found himself spiralling from slavery to being a jailbird, because some dreams take time before they are fulfilled. While in prison, Joseph became not only a dreamer, but a dream interpreter which started off with his faith-filled remark, ‘Do not interpretations come from God? Tell me your dreams’ (40:v8). God then uses dream interpretation as the card that gets Joseph out of prison to fulfil his destiny- that of being Governor of Egypt. ‘The Lord was with Joseph’ (39:v2), and when the Lord is with someone, God openly reveals Himself. He says, ‘When the Prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams’ (Numbers 12:6). Elihu, full of God’s Spirit of wisdom and understanding, says;
‘For God does speak- now one way, now another- though man may not perceive it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men.
As they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings.
to turn a man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride. ’
God constantly speaks to us in many ways. However, most times we do not pick up what He says because we are either too busy to notice, or our spirits are not sensitive to His leadings. When we are asleep however, our bodies are inactive and our spirits become more active. And so in that state, God uses that opportunity to speak to us in visual, coded forms- dreams. The King of Babylon says, ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me’ (Daniel 4:4-5). Only when King Nebuchadnezzar was rested, could God use that opportunity to speak to Him. Job who was suffering anguish says, ‘When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions’ (Job 7:14-15). Beyond giving us a glimpse of the future, God also uses dreams to speak warnings to us, to keep us from wrongdoing and from pride, as Elihu states.
However, this is not to mean that all dreams originate from God. And this is where discernment comes in. Sometimes, ‘a dream comes when there are many cares’ (Ecclesiastes 5:3), and so dreams may be a regurgitation of one’s fears and worries buried in their subconscious- not necessarily God speaking. Sometimes, the Evil One corrupts our dreams so that ‘while everyone is sleeping, his enemy comes and sowed weeds among the wheat’ (Matthew 13:25). It is only by having a close relationship with God, can one distinguish if a dream is from God or not. The devil, a murderer and thief, usually snatches our critical dreams which God has spoken to us, and makes us forget them. However, God is faithful and ‘reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what dwells in darkness and light dwells in him’ (Daniel 2:22). So when we pray, God can reveal a dream and its meaning to us. It also helps if one writes down a significant dream for remembrance.
Oftenly, when God speaks in dreams, it is at a critical point in one’s life. For instance, when one is at a crossroad and does not know what to do, then God may use a dream to bring clarity. When Joseph was considering to divorce Mary, ‘an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream’ (Matthew 1:19) and told him not to divorce her. God also uses dreams to reinforce what He already spoke to someone in another form. When God told Gideon that he would defeat the Midianites, Gideon remained doubtful. God then tells him, ‘If you are afraid to attack, go down with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterwards, you will be encouraged to attack the camp’ (Judges 7:10). ‘Gideon arrived just as a man was telling his friend, ‘I had a dream’’ (v13). The dream was of a ‘round loaf of bread tumbling into the Midianite camp’ (v13) and ‘struck the tent with great force that the tent overturned and collapsed’ (v13). The dream signified Gideon’s victory over the Midianites, and ‘When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshipped God’ (v15).
Dreams also hugely offer warnings that should not be ignored. Joseph tells Pharaoh, ‘The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God and will do it soon’ (Genesis 41:32). The dreams predicting of a looming famine was given in two forms indicating its urgency. It called for action to be taken in planning and storing food. A dream serves a purpose and so action needs to be taken. For instance, the birth of Jesus entailed many dreams. This is because Jesus served a purpose, like we all do. Joseph and Mary were ‘warned in a dream not to go back to Herod’ (Matthew 2:12) in order to save Jesus’s life. Taking heed, they fled to Egypt. Sometime later, an ‘angel appeared in a dream to Joseph’ (v19) to leave Egypt. They were again ‘warned in a dream’ (v22) not to go back to Bethlehem, and so ‘they withdrew to the district of Galilee’ (v22). When Jesus, after completing His ministry, was brought before Pilate, God also used a dream to warn Pilate to have nothing to do with His trial. ‘While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him’ (27:v19). Pilate took warning and so was able to clear himself of any charges in the crucifixion of the Messiah. In the same way, a warning dream is only effective if it is heeded; pray against the calamity and take action where necessary, and as directed by God.
When it comes to interpreting dreams, God is a personal God, and when He speaks to one in dreams, it is applicable to their life or one whom they dream about. Dreams use symbolism and so their meaning are usually not outright and need to be unravelled in line with personal circumstances. And so a symbol in one’s dream may not mean the exact in someone else’s dream. Daniel says, ‘No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God who reveals mysteries’ (Daniel 2:27-28). It is only God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom, who can reveal what a dream means. By going back to God with our dreams, He only can reveal its meaning to us because God is interested in building a relationship with us, even via dreams. Daniel tells the King, ‘As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O King, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind’ (v30). While God used the dream to reveal ‘what will happen in days to come’ (v28), He also used it to show the proud King His greatness and power. After Daniel told the King the meaning of the dream, the King remarked, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery’ (v47). No matter their purpose, dreams point us to the Source, to God’s power and majesty. And the more we behold Him in awe, then we will be able to easily discern and interpret dreams.
‘And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women’ ~ Joel 2:28-29