© 2001, Steve Bydeley
Dream: I saw a man shoot someone. That man looked at me and I made note of his face so I could identify him later. He began to follow me. Wherever I went, he followed. Over things, under, around, and through - he followed me. I went through a door and found myself in a small room. Others were there and they were all standing. There was no other door out. The man followed me into the room, blocking my escape. We stared at each other and then he started to move toward me. Suddenly another man in the room grabbed him by the neck and picked him up off the floor. The stalker went completely limp and was totally helpless in the hands of this stranger.
Did you ever wake up from a dream like that and ask yourself what that was all about? Who was the gunman that was stalking me? Was Jesus the wonderful strong man who came to my rescue? What do I do with a dream like that? Was it something I ate? Was the dream supposed to be an encouragement?
Do you dream? If you think that you do not dream, or you cannot recall your dreams, there may be reasons for that. If you do dream, and I believe the evidence suggests we all do on occasion, then you too have wondered about the creativity of the dream and its symbols. You too, have wondered about its meaning, purpose, and origin. Some of these dreams may be more than the food we ate the night before or the result of a very active day.
In the book of Joel, chapter 2 verse 28, we read:
"And afterward, 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." (NIV)
Dreams and visions are an important part of the latter day outpouring.
As the church, we are very excited about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter days. In Acts 2 Peter declared this out pouring had begun and most today believe we are in those latter days and this outpouring is happening, around the world. If this is true, what do we believe about the dreams and visions mentioned in this scripture? Dreams and visions will be an important part of the latter day outpouring, as John L. Sandford1 points out, "Dreams are one of the primary consequences of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit". They are a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit on humankind and they are important to the life and growth of the church in these days. Are we equipping the church, the body of Christ, to handle every facet of this outpouring or only that portion with which we are comfortable? What is it about dreams and visions that makes us uncomfortable? Are we afraid of hearing from God as were the Israelites of Exodus 20:18-19?
...and when the people saw [the display of God's presence on Mount Sinai], they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die."
God at that time presented himself as the Law-Giver and he had just given the law to Moses and Aaron in the presence of the people. Today this same God speaks to us through his Son, Jesus, not in commandments but in grace, in mercy, in love, because Jesus fulfilled the demands of those commandments in his life, death, burial, and resurrection. Yes, we are expected to walk in harmony with the law, but even that requirement is being worked in us by his Holy Spirit. When he speaks to us today, it is as our Father, because not only were we saved from the consequences of our sin; he also adopted us to be his sons and daughters with all the rights and privileges due his children. He brought us into relationship with himself so he can walk with us, fellowship with us, have relationship with us, and speak with us―even perhaps through the pictures, images, and symbols of dreams or visions.
A Thousand Words
How does God speak to us today? Psalm 8:1 tells us:
"O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!"
How does 'all the earth' display God's splendor?
Have you studied the beauty of a rose, witnessed the flight of a humming bird as it drinks nectar from a flower, or observed the dance and song of a whale and its calf in the ocean?
These and millions of other scenes like them are the echoes of God's creative acts in the beginning. These pictures declare the awesome majesty and glory of our God. They declare it even if no one will listen. They are pictures of the Godhead. Nature speaks to us of God in a language of pictures, the same kind of language that make up our dreams and visions. It is not a difficult language, it is a language we can learn, a language of pictures - and a picture is worth a thousand words.
Silence or Censorship
God, our Father, has spoken to humankind in various ways, including dreams and visions, throughout recorded history, and still does so today. From early in Genesis to the end of Revelation, he has shown himself to be a speaking God.
The Israelites were reminded of their promise to walk in God's ways, keep his statues, commandments, ordinances, and to "listen to His voice" (Deut 26:17 ).
God created us for relationship, with him and with those around us. The ten commandments, mentioned earlier, and all of the details of Moses' law are relationship issues. Jesus summarized all their demands:
And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. (Matt 22:37-40)
Communication―fresh communication―is a very important part of any relationship. An occasional phone call enhances the effect of the letters received, as anyone in a long-distance relationship knows. Letters and calls can sustain us until we can be together―in relationship.
Paul admonishes us to "pray without ceasing". Prayer is dialogue, two-way communication, not the one-way communication of a monologue. We ask him, he answers us. He speaks to us, we respond to him. Of course, we hope for an answer or a response when we pray. God has things to say and there are things we sometimes need to hear, even though we may not have asked a question.
Jesus said "my sheep know my voice"―communication. He wants to communicate, to encourage, to advise, and to ask us to do things for him. Is that shepherd's voice calling to us, directing us to drink from the still water over there, to graze or rest here, stay away from that, or to follow as he leads perhaps in a different direction or to a new pasture?
Through the prophet Joel God says:
I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)
This verse can be understood to read, "I will pour my Spirit on all mankind; and I will cause your sons and daughters to prophesy; I will cause your old men to dream dreams; I will cause your young men to see visions."
Thoughts of this outpouring bring to mind the difficulties Paul had to respond to in the Corinthian church regarding their enthusiasm for the gifts of the Spirit. The members there had to be instructed on the orderly use and function of the gifts within the church body. The same may be the case regarding dreams in the church today.
We are aware of the problems and difficulties local churches may―and probably will―face as new babes learn to walk in this area of dreams and visions. Is it much different from the understanding parents have when their baby determines to walk? We know of the lumps and bruises that we will have to rub and kiss better. We know that they will trip and fall many times. We know they may hit their chin and bleed as new teeth cut their gums. Things will be knocked over and broken. There will be new conflicts with siblings as the baby begins to roam. We know these trials are a part of the process of learning to walk! So we stand with them, we watch, we prepare ourselves to catch them if we can or to pick them up when we cannot. We are ready to help when it is necessary―and it will be necessaryvbecause they must learn to walk! Knowing that these things will happen in the church, do we avoid talking about dreams, or do we ready ourselves to help?
It may be time for the church to wake up . . . to dreams and visions!
1Sandford, John L. The Elijah Task. p169