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Dreams: God's Neglected Means of Communication

by Tom Brown

God loves to communicate to His people. He uses various means including dreams. As Elihu said:


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, (Job 33:14-15)


What I find interesting about this statement is that when God speaks in dreams man may not perceive it. We often treat dreams as junk mail. We quickly dismiss our dreams as unimportant, when in fact, God may have sent us a message.


God sends messages to us in dreams in order to protect us from impending disaster, change a lifestyle we've been living, or perhaps guide us in a direction to take.


Examples of Dreams in Action


God warned Pharaoh through a dream about an impending famine in the land of Egypt. Because of the dream, countless lives were saved. (see Genesis 41)


I read a story about a woman who had a dream in which her pastor gave her a Scripture. After she awakened, she looked up the verse and it was about bearing children. She discounted it since she was told by her doctor that she could not have anymore children.


Later that day, her daughter was diagnosed of having parasites in her digestive tract. The doctor gave a prescription for the entire family to protect them from this contagious disease. Just as the mother was about to take it, she read the warning label: NOT TO BE TAKEN IF PREGNANT.


The woman had no reason to suspect pregnancy, but based on the dream she abstained from taking the medicine. Remarkably, she tested positive, and later had her baby. Wow! Through a dream a baby was saved.


God is also concerned about our lifestyle. Abimelech was admonished in a dream about committing adultery with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.


But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman." (Genesis 20:3)


Through this dream, Abimelech repented.


God will also guide you through dreams. He did it for Joseph no less than five times (Matthew 2) and for Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19).


Sometimes God gives you a dream to simply encourage you. For example, when Gideon needed reassurance to fight the Midianites he was inspired through a dream and its interpretation.


Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. "I had a dream," he was saying. "A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed." His friend responded, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands." When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshipped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, "Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands." Judges 7:13-15


Do Dreams Belong to the New Covenant?


There are some believers who argue against dreams by saying, "Dreams were God’s way of speaking to His people under the Old Covenant, but not for today. In our time God speaks to us through the Scriptures and by the Spirit."


That’s not the view of Peter. On the day of Pentecost, when the New Covenant was established, he preached, "'In the last days, God says, 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). Your old men will dream dreams. Dreams are for our age. In fact, according to this promise, dreams would be more frequent in our time. Dreams belong to the last days, the days we live in.


Just in case you think that dreams belong only to old men, please remember that Peter quotes a type of Psalm called Hebrew Parallelism. This type of Psalm is a song that repeats itself in different words. This Psalms attempts to paint a broad brush by including sons and daughters, young and old, visions and dreams. It is not meant to convey that only young men have visions and only old men have dreams. It is saying that visions and dreams belong to everyone—young and old alike.


Take for example, Joseph: he had a dream from God when he was only seventeen years old (Genesis 17:2). Daniel was a young aspirant when God gave him a dream and the interpretation in order to protect everyone from Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath (Daniel 2:19). And how about Solomon, a young king. He had dreamt that God gave him wisdom. He called himself "a little child" (1 Kings 3:7) when he had the dream. Notice that all three of these men were young when they had dreams from God.


Faith for Dreams


A Rhema graduate named Janet moved to our city and joined our church. She told me, "Ever since I’ve been in this church, I hear people having dreams from God all the time. Is there something in the water?"


As we laughed I told her, "The reason so many members in our church have dreams is because they expect God to give them dreams. I’ve taught them to believe for dreams, so they use their faith to have dreams. Have you ever been taught that God speaks in dreams?"


She gazed for a moment and said, "You know what, Pastor!? I’ve never heard any teaching about dreams." Then she realized why we had so many dreams—we believed God for dreams.


God works by means of faith. If you have faith that God will do something in His Word, then He will do it. The reason many believers don’t have many dreams from the Lord is because they don’t have faith in them. Exercise your faith for dreams.


Start by asking God for dreams. You have not because you ask not.


Expect that you will have dreams from God.


Put your faith into action by placing a notebook and pen next to your bed, and when you have a dream, write it down. Daniel did!


In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. Daniel 7:1


You’ll be surprised as to how often God will speak to you in dreams. Skeptical people have told me, "Pastor, I just don’t dream." But when they promised to act in faith for dreams, they’ve come to me with excitement, "I had a dream from God!" The same can happen to you.


Not Every Dream is from God


People often ask me, "Pastor, are all my dreams from God?" The answer is no.


There are many causes of dreams including worry. "...a dream comes when there are many cares..."(Eccl 5:3). Satan can give counterfeit dreams, especially when the dreamer is involved in occult activities. The lust of the flesh can cause X rated dreams. Bitterness can cause dreams whereby you kill people, or fear can cause you to have nightmares.


Obviously you must use discernment to know if a dream is from God or not.


Interpret Dreams


One of the common mistakes people make when interpreting their dreams is to take the dream literal. Most dreams are symbolic—like Joseph’s dream of stars, Pharaoh’s dream of cows, or Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue.


How can you tell if a dream should be taken literally or symbolically? If everything in the dream seems possible and real, then it probably is a literal dream. For example, if you’re driving your car going to your job and get into an accident, then probably you need to take it literal and pray for protection.


On the other hand, if there is a part in the dream that seems improbable or unreal then you should interpret the entire dream as symbolic. If, for example, you’re driving another car or going to a fictitious place then the dream is symbolic, even if the accident seems real. The dream is speaking about spiritual danger, not physical danger.


You need to learn to think symbolically. It takes practice. Increase the vocabulary of symbols. As your vocabulary of symbols increase, your ability to understand your dreams will get better and better. The more you know the general meaning of symbols, the easier it will be to interpret dreams, and you’ll be more accurate.


Let me give you a warning. Beware of using New Age type books to interpret symbols. I’ve looked at a couple of major ones, and they are totally wrong. I’ve read in these books that when you dream of committing adultery, this means you will have a pleasant experience, or when you dream of a minister, that minister is symbolic of deception. These books twist the meaning of symbols. Two books I recommend is Exploring the World of Dreams by Benny Thomas and Understanding the Dreams You Dream by Ira Milligan. They are two good Christian books on dreams.


Keep in mind that a symbol may mean something different to different people. If someone lives in India and dreams of a cow and a farmer dreams the same thing, the cow will probably mean "religious bondage" to the Indian while a cow may mean "livelihood" to the farmer. God understands our personal experience, so He will use things that we can relate to. Especially, as a Christian, look into the Scriptures for the meaning of symbols.


Why God Uses Dreams


You may wonder why God may need to use a dream to speak to you, when, in fact, He could have used another means to speak to you. I’m convinced that God uses dreams to speak to you because when you are asleep your conscious mind cannot fight God’s message.


Often when we are awake, our conscious minds gets in the way of hearing from God, but when we are asleep God is able to do things to us that we cannot contest. It’s the same when an Anesthesiologist puts someone to sleep for the surgeon. He does so in order for the patient not to feel the pain during surgery; because if the patient was awake he would give the surgeon tremendous problems.


When you’re asleep you’re vulnerable. You lose control of your life, and God has it. This is when God can really speak to you.





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