© 2002, Steve Bydeley
Dream: I was looking at a koala. It was half buried in the sand and appeared to be dead. My sister was there and pulled it out of the sand by an ear. It suddenly started to squirm so she let it go and we watched it run to a tree and steadily climbed upward.
Was this just a dream or was it more—a message perhaps? I am sure that nearly everyone has had a dream that seemed to carry a message. Do dreams like that carry a message from God or are they, as some suggest, just the random neutron activity of a bored brain waiting for the body to wake?
That dream prompted us to pray and make some phone calls pertaining to the arrangements of a trip to Australia. In doing so we learned the process was stuck and was in jeopardy of being canceled. Our timely involvement in praying and phoning (issues of the ear) liberated the process for the trip we enjoyed last year.
Reading even a small portion of the Bible will reveal that God did speak to people in dreams and visions. In the book of Job, considered by most to have been one of the earliest written books, we find this about dreams:
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 man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. (Job 33:14-18 NIV)
The verse starts with the words, "For God does speak." Do we read this in the past tense as, "God did speak," believing he no longer does? In our western culture where we have adopted reason and our senses as the only means by which we can gain understanding—even Christians—tend to do so! We have become slaves to our senses and logic, letting them govern all we know, how we feel, and how we live. Yet the Bible tells that we will gain our life by losing it for Jesus sake—it is in giving that we receive—the gentle that will inherit the earth, and more—each truth a seeming paradox to reason and logic. Regarding dreams, which then is logical or reasonable, that "God does speak" or "God did speak"?
The account in Matthew 1 and 2 shows not only that does God speak, he has high regard for dreams. In those chapters, we read that God spoke through dreams:
1. To Joseph about taking Mary as his wife (1:20)
2. To the Magi about avoiding King Herod (2:12)
3. To Joseph about fleeing to Egypt (2:13)
4. To Joseph about returning to Israel (2:19-20)
5. To Joseph about settling in Galilee to avoid Herod's son (2:22)
These dreams were pivotal to the protection of Jesus' life and God's plan for our salvation. Of course, as is apparent here, Joseph, too, had high regard for dreams and the messages they contain.
Consider the outcome if Peter had dismissed dreams or visions when he saw the image of a sheet (more likely a sail) full of unclean animals (Acts 10). Would he have gone with the Gentiles that came asking for him? While we can only speculate on the possibilities, we know with certainty that God spoke to Peter, the head of the church at that time, through a vision on a matter of great importance to us as Gentiles.
Does God only speak to us through the written words of the Bible? If we believe that God only speaks to us through the Bible, we face the fact that within its pages he has spoken in significant ways through dreams and visions, and in the Bible he has promised to speak today in that same way.
Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. (Num. 12:6 NASB)
It will come about after this that 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 NASB)
Peter, in his Pentecost preaching debut (Acts 2:17), identifies the events of that day as fulfilling Joel's prophecy. This verse tells us that the presence of the Holy Spirit will cause prophecy, dreams, and visions to occur.
Consider the woman who had been praying for her ailing mother, in a dream she saw a plane and heard a date. Her obedience in booking a flight for that date permitted her a precious and fulfilling final visit before her mother's death during that week.
In Acts 16, Paul's ministry was directed by a "vision of the night" wherein man was beckoning him to Macedonia. So too, God may give direction to us today, remembering, that it was the kings and leaders that received direction for their countries and churches through dreams and visions. In their book Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Judeo-Christian Way of Dreamwork, L. Savary, P. Berne, and S.K. Williams, tell how Chrysostom, Tertullian, Cyprian, Synesius, and others of the post apostolic church spoke of the significance of dreams to life and ministry of the church (Paulist Press , pg. 39).
Could the life and ministries of our churches and its members benefit from a renewed interest and enthusiasm for dreams and visions? Are we missing a significant source of intimacy and relationship with the Father? Is it time we, in our western culture, consider the area of dreams and visions?
Also read Why so Difficult?