The Bible spends a great deal of time telling us about two men who excelled at the art of interpreting dreams: Joseph and Daniel.
It was a skill they were able to use to their advantage in dealing with kings and pharaohs.
I'm not always sure I want to know what my dreams mean. There are dreams that leave me troubled. There are dreams that bolt me awake. There are dreams which float me back to consciousness feeling rested and peaceful. There are dreams within dreams which make it difficult for me to know when I'm actually awake.
Thank goodness dreams aren't always true. I will never, ever, pass that math class after skipping all the classes and showing up naked for the final. And I have one dream where there is a dead body in a trunk in a storage unit somewhere. That dream REALLY left me troubled.
In addition to the stories about Joseph and Daniel, the Old Testament warns God's people to avoid false prophets who say they interpret dreams but instead lead people away from God. Occasionally God comes in a dream to warn someone away from danger. Saul knew that he no longer held God's favor because "the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets." (1 Samuel 28:6)
So the people of the Old Testament were well aware of the power of dreams to communicate with God and to understand the world around them.
There are very few mentions of dreams in the New Testament. And they almost all relate to this time of year when we celebrate the birth of Christ.
While Mary was visited by an angel in "person," Joseph's angelic visitations came through dreams. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him about Jesus’ birth. An angel again appeared in a dream telling him to escape danger by going to Egypt and then again that he could return after Herod's death, and then again to settle in Galilee. The Three Wise Men were warned in a dream not return to Herod.
The Wise Men were aware of signs from heaven, after all they were following a star. So to have a message delivered to them through dreams makes some sense.
Dreams seemed to be the preferred method of communicating with Joseph. These dreams didn't need to be interpreted. The dreams relayed clear messages from an angel of God. The Bible doesn’t indicate any hesitation on Joseph’s part to accept these messages. He heard, he accepted, and he acted.
I believe that God speaks to us in whatever ways we will best hear. God speaks to us through the Bible, through music, through others, through creation, through prayer, through Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. Maybe still through dreams?
Like the Three Wise Men, Mary, and Joseph, may you be open to the many ways God has to speak to you. And may you have sweet dreams.
- Ann Warner