By Femi Aribisala
In the scriptures, God often spoke to people through dreams and visions. Jacob’s life was radically impacted by a series of dreams. God revealed little Joseph’s destiny to him through dreams. Another Joseph dreamed dreams concerning instructions about the birth of Jesus Christ. Pilate’s wife was warned in a dream about her husband’s dealings with Jesus’ persecutors. The Holy Spirit gave the apostles Peter and John visions.
Solomon says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18). This was the case for hundreds of years before Jesus. From Malachi to Matthew, there were no visions and no prophets. This is reminiscent of the time of the Judges when: “messages from the LORD were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.” (1 Samuel 3:1). As a result, it was an ungodly era when: “every man did whatever he thought was right.” (Judges 21:25).
The advent of Jesus ushered in the renewal of dreams and visions. Indeed, there are more instances of dreams in the nativity passages of Matthew than in any other book in the bible: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:14-16).
As it was in biblical days, so it is today. God continues to speak through dreams. He said to Israel in the Old Testament: “If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.” (Numbers 12:6). But now in the New Testament, dreams are not only prevalent among the prophets. The light of God that shines through them has become even brighter in the lives of men.
On his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. Accordingly, at the Pentecost, the Spirit of God was poured forth; fulfilling the Lord’s prophecy that: “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17). From then onwards, we went into overflow with dreams and visions.
This did not make dreams the exclusive experience of spirit-filled Christians. God speaks to anybody and everybody through dreams and visions. In the scriptures, the vision of the fourth man in the fire was given to pagan Nebuchadnezzar. Abimelech was a wife-snatcher and collector: he was certainly not a righteous man. Nevertheless, God counselled him in a dream. (Genesis 20:4). Pharaoh was a pagan king, yet God spoke to him through dreams.
Therefore, no one should discount himself or herself as a potential dreamer of God-given dreams. True humility is in accepting whatever position God puts us in and not in insisting we are unworthy. God is not a respecter of persons; but he has a high regard for man. (Psalm 8:4).
Dreams and visions are basically the same except that a dream occurs during periods of sleep, while a vision generally refers to images or revelations received in picture-form while we are awake. Just as television and radio-waves transmitted through the air must be tuned into in order to be received, so dreams are constantly being broadcast to our subconscious minds, both by God’s Spirit and by our own souls. Thus, it becomes imperative for us to turn on our receivers and tune in to the messages being sent.
Dreams are God’s parables of the night. Therefore, they have to be deciphered.
When he physically walked the earth, Jesus spoke in parables that were rich in symbolism. This enabled him to expound on a topic more graphically because there is a depth to symbolism that ordinary speech does not have. Symbols give a broader, more vivid meaning, to what is being conveyed. Although they tend to be more difficult to decipher than mere words, they ultimately give us a much better understanding of what is being communicated because they provide mental pictures and images.
Similarly, dreams are God’s parables of the night. Therefore, they have to be deciphered. They are very much like poetry. To understand them, we have to get the metaphor.
Sources of dreams
How do we determine that a dream is actually from God? How do we recognize false messages in dreams? How do we interpret dreams? What do we do when a dream contains a warning? These are some of the issues we need to address if we are to realise the full benefits of dreams and are not to be deceived.
For starters, we need to ask ourselves questions like the following: Is the message of the dream consistent with the doctrine, teachings and principles of Jesus? Isaiah says: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20). That was that standard in the Old Testament, when the Law of Moses was supreme.
Today, this principle should be applied to what we learn at the feet of Jesus. Is the message of the dream consistent with the teachings, character and pattern of life of Jesus? Remember what Jesus himself says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). As long as the dream is in conformity with Jesus’ word, we cannot go wrong in obeying it.
Does the message of the dream or vision promote the righteousness of God? Remember again: Jesus is our righteousness. Righteousness is no longer merely a concept. Righteousness is now Jesus; a person. Does the dream cause us to engage in a soul-search or to address vital issues concerning our love of God and love for our neighbours? If so, it must be of God. Jesus says: “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).
Understanding the language
Many people dream but don’t understand their dreams. Without the correct interpretation, a dream is useless. Without interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams would have been worthless. Without interpretation, Pharaoh’s dream would not have preserved life.
Find out the meaning of your dream. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2). First and foremost, the meaning of a dream must be drawn from the dreamer himself: “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5). Never accept an interpretation for which you do not have an inner witness. When a dream is interpreted for you, you should immediately be able to confirm that the interpretation is correct. It should strike a chord.
Should we remain in the dark concerning the meaning, we must pray to interpret our dreams: “There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” (Job 32:8). Remember what Joseph says: “Interpreting dreams is God’s business.” (Genesis 40:8).
(To Be Continued).