“So I’ve been wrestling with this for a while but where do our dreams fit in? I tend to hear sermons about how it’s all about Jesus and feel shame for having dreams and trying to figure out my dreams, but where do they fit in? Is God with our dreams?” –From an Ecclesian
First let me say, I love this question because it shows that you are aware of our need to filter everything through Jesus as a follower of Christ. Let me see if I can explain where dreams fit in God’s revelation of truth to His people.
Dreams were one of the ways that God spoke in the Old Testament to reveal Himself and His will to Israel. Notably, Joseph had dreams and interpreted the dreams of others, including Pharaoh, that were a clear foretelling of future events by God (Genesis 37-41). Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams that God was using to reveal His will for the future (Daniel 2). Jacob, Laban, Solomon, the Wise Men, even Jesus’ father Joseph each had dreams in which God spoke to them in a truthful way.
Hebrews 1:1 affirms this by saying, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,” Dreams were part of God’s revelation to a generation that did not have a widely distributed written record of God’s commands.
However even in the Old Testament, God always gave restrictions on the use of dreams as divine instruction. Dreams were to be filtered in accordance with God’s previously revealed truth. For example, if someone claimed to have a dream that told them to follow other gods, which was in contraction to the Ten Commandments that God had previously given, that dream was to be disregarded as simply a human dream and not divine revelation.
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.
In fact, Jeremiah condemns false prophet for making up dreams in an attempt to lead Israel astray from God. He then says to be sure to test the dream against God’s word and when a false dream is tested against God’s word, it will not be able to stand.
“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
God was so concerned about the misleading power of people claiming dreams as revelation from God that were in fact not from Him, that he made false dreams punishable by death.
That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
Hebrews 1 goes on to say “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” When Jesus came as the Living Word of God he became a more complete revelation of God character and God’s will for us. Secondly, as God has now preserved his inspired Written Word of God for us, the Bible, it too serves as authoritative over our life.
So, now that we have Jesus and the Bible, do dreams still have any spiritual value? They can, in fact the prophet Joel predicted that when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, one of the signs would be that people would dream dreams that were inspired revelation from God.
“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.”
The Holy Spirit can choose to speak to us through dreams, but we must be sure to filter and interpret those dreams through the grid of God’s truth revealed in Jesus and the Scriptures. Anything that we experience in a dream that feels like a claim to act or think a certain way, must stand up to the rest of God’s truth, or we must simply disregard it as part of the human experience, but not authoritative. As I mentioned Sunday, it would be wise to filter a dream through God’s word and a Christ centered community before acting upon it.
Finally, you mentioned feeling shame over our dreams. God does not shame us as motivation in our lives*. As a result of the Fall and living in a corrupted fleshy body we will have thoughts, instincts and even dreams that are sinful. I would bet it is universal to the human experience to have dreams that center around lust, anger, violence, jealousy, etc. However, we can confess those dreams in the same way we can confess those thoughts and experience forgiveness full and complete in Christ. But we don’t need to feel shame over them.
*I am defining shame as a persistent and generalized sense of failure or unworthiness. The Holy Spirit can convict us of sin, but it is specific and pointed towards an action or behavior that He wants us to change. God doesn’t shame us by saying, “You stink, and you’re a failure.” In fact, that criticizing voice in our heads is more likely part of the attack of Satan, whom the Bible calls the “Accuser of the Church.” The Holy Spirit convicts us by saying, “Hey, I see that behavior, its not right, I love you and want you to reflect me, so cut it out.”
If you would like to submit a question for Jon to answer related to his messages or any other part of your spiritual life, please feel free to email Jon@www.ecclesia.la. Q&A will never be posted on a blog without your express permission.