Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Dreams … where do they come from?
Dear Father Paul: Where do our dreams come from? From God? From the Devil? Or from inside of us? — C. D.
Dear C. D.: People have always been interested in their dreams, even as far back as Biblical times. I went to a craft fair a few years ago and a man had a booth set up with a sign that said: “Your Dreams Interpreted … $5.00.” There were over 15 people waiting in line!
Modern psychiatry says that our dreams, indeed, do come from inside of us, and that they are “man centered.”
Psychologists and psychiatrists say that we often dream several times a night during what is called “REM Sleep.” REM Sleep is our short, one to two hour period of “deep sleep. “
They say, also, that we remember less than half of our dreams, and, that in our dreams strange and frightening but sometimes unbelievable and delightful things can happen. Sometimes we can fly like an eagle. Sometimes we are visited by long dead relatives or friends, or we win the lottery. Sometimes our dreams are reassuring and comforting … sometimes they are deeply troubling.
Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry, posited that our dreams concern our past and our present and that they arise from an “unknown” region within us. He taught that every dream, at its core, is an attempt at wish fulfillment.
So much for psychology. Basically psychology is saying that, even with all of our modern scientific and medical advances, we still don’t know or understand very much about dreams.
The Bible, on the other hand, as the instruction guide for all things human, takes the position that a large number of dreams are from God. In general, the Bible teaches that the God who made us and who loves us as his children wants to communicate with us. And that he communicates with us most often on a “spiritual level.” This can include dreams, visions, signs and wonders, miracles, prophecies, angel visitations, praying and the reading and study of Scripture, to name a few.
In Numbers 12 (New Living Translation) as the Israelites under Moses wandered in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt, they complained and criticized just about everything. Finally, the Lord appeared in a cloud and said these words (v.6) “Now listen to what I say. If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams.” He did not do so because there were no prophets in the crowd except for Moses.
“Dreams” are mentioned 33 times in Genesis and 27 times in Daniel. Godly dreams occur when a person is asleep and godly visions occur when a person is awake.
We find in the Bible numerous examples of dreams directly from God. In these dreams God communicated different things. Here are just a few examples: God warns people … Genesis 20:3 and 31:24 and Matthew 27:19; God announces the future … Genesis 37:5,9 and 40:8-19 and 41:1-7, 15-32; God tells someone or a group to do something … Genesis 31:11-13 and Matthew 1:20-23 and 2:12-13; God warns of punishment … Daniel 4. There are nearly 20 more examples of dreams coming from God in the Bible.
But dreams can also come from our own pride and even our lust … see Ecclesiastes 5:7; and Jude 1:8 … and they indeed can even sometimes come from the Devil as you suggest. See Isaiah 29:8 and Zechariah 10:2. If a person has a dream that causes them to question its source they should pray earnestly and ask God if what they dreamed came from him or from some other source. He is faithful to answer this kind of prayer.
A good rule to remember is this. If a dream is truly from God, it will always align in every respect with God’s word, the Bible, and it will glorify God. If it does not agree with the themes of scripture, then it is not from God. For example, if you have a dream that features you having a sexual affair with a co-worker, that dream is urging you to sin against God … and is not from him!
The Bible strictly forbids believers from consulting psychics, mediums, fortunetellers and the like about our dreams. This should tell us something. See Deuteronomy 18:10-14; and Leviticus 19:26.
Finally, the Bible records in Acts 2:17 that in the days proceeding the return of Christ to the earth, his followers will begin to have special dreams and visions.
Do you have a question or a comment? Write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for more information, directions and service times.