Whenever we consider aspects of the Christian life, we always want to anchor our beliefs and applications of those beliefs in the Word. Looking to God to speak to us through dreams is no different. The Bible is full of stories of God giving revelation to people through dreams. Many of the prophets received revelation this way. The examples we will briefly mention today, however, were all given to people who did not know the Lord – and yet we can learn principles from them.
In Genesis 41, Pharaoh’s dreams of the withered grain heads eating the full grain heads and the skinny cattle eating the fat ones were given to him so that he could prepare and thereby help his nation avoid starvation. The dreams themselves were prophetically about what was going to happen, but when Joseph gave the interpretation, he shifted into the gift of the word of wisdom, thereby giving Pharaoh direction on how to prepare for the future events he had been shown.
God will work like that with us too, giving us part of what we need to know in a dream, and then following up by speaking to us further through other means during our waking hours.
God came to Abimelech, a Philistine king, in a dream, and carried on an entire conversation with him. In it, He gave Abimelech information which he had not previously been aware of, specific direction about how to respond to that information, and then warned him of the consequences of not obeying that direction (Genesis 20:1-7). Unlike Pharaoh’s highly symbolic dream, Abimelech’s was not at all symbolic. It was direct and to the point, with no interpretation required.
God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar about future events coming upon the earth, right down to the last days, through his dream of the statue made of various metals (Daniel 2). There were several purposes for this dream. Just as was the case with Joseph and Pharaoh’s dream, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream enabled God to position Daniel in a place of great influence, through Daniel’s interpretation. The dream was not just for Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s benefit. It was recorded in Scripture to provide an important piece of end-time revelation for all people, down to the present. A third possible purpose for the dream was to test Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. He seems to have failed the test, for shortly after receiving the dream, he built a statue (Daniel 3), which many scholars believe was identical to what he saw in the dream – except that he made it all of gold, which, in the dream, was the part of the statue representing Nebuchadnezzar’s empire. In essence, he may have been rebelliously responding, “My kingdom will last forever, no matter what the dream said.”
God also warned Nebuchadnezzar through a second dream and its interpretation to repent of his pride, and He showed him how he would be chastised if he did not (Daniel 4). Nebuchadnezzar didn’t listen, and had to endure the consequences. But he later remembered the dream, repented, was restored to his kingdom, and gave glory to God. The dream allowed him to see God’s hand upon his life, although it was in retrospect.
These stories and others like them reveal that God not only speaks to believers in dreams, but also nonbelievers. We see that God, in His great love for mankind, cares about those who do not yet know Him. He wants to help them fulfill their life-purposes, aid them in protecting and caring for those they influence, use them to further His overall plan, and also lead them into a knowledge of Himself.
As each of us learns to interpret our own dreams, we will eventually become skilled enough in dream interpretation to assist others in interpreting theirs. Dream interpretation can be an evangelistic tool to help reach the nonbelievers in our lives. Dreams seem to interest everyone, and many people like to tell theirs to their friends, family, and coworkers. Look for opportunities to use these conversations to let people know that God loves them and cares about the details of their lives.