15th February 2013

God’s Dream Will Do

“Do not interpretations belong to God?”
Genesis 40:8 (NIV UK)

Whilst driving I was singing along to a track from Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It was an excellent rendition of “Any dream will do”.

It got me thinking: will any dream do? Some dreams end up as nightmares, as happened with the chief baker. In biblical times God, who spoke “through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1), occasionally would use dreams to warn or comfort people. Joseph’s point to the butler, the baker and Pharaoh was that, if a dream has any meaning at all, it is only God who can reveal what it means. There’s not some hidden hand of fate directing life to fulfil our dreams.

Some Christians transfer ideas from Joseph’s story to our modern context. They believe that God is likely to reveal any personal plans he has for us and for others through the medium of dreams. “If God did it back then, he does it now” is the logic. After all, it is argued, did not the apostle Peter predict in Acts 2:17 that in our age holy people would have great dreams? Actually Peter was quoting a prophecy from Joel 2:28, and said that the Acts 2 Pentecost was its fulfilment. Peter’s intent was not for future Christians to claim dreams as God’s way of guiding us and admonishing us.

Another apostle, Jude, warned Christians against pre-occupation with dreams. His concern was that some believers had placed how they interpreted their dreams above the scriptures and above the advice of leading figures in the church. Jude wrote, “on the strength of their dreams” they “pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings” (v.8). Any dream would do to justify their behaviour.

Researchers puzzle over how the brain forms the content of our dreams. We don’t understand it completely, and therefore we should be cautious about reading meaning into our dreams. Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes 5:3, “a dream comes when there are many cares”. Do we dream of the good or the bad things that are on our mind? Dreams are compared to “fantasies” in Psalm 73:20. In the New Testament period, when people experimented with all kinds of ideas in their search for divine guidance, Paul stressed the priority of Scripture: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

God, who watches over us, neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). I doubt he dreams. He does, however, envisage a better future for us in Christ Jesus. In that sense one could say that God has a wonderful dream for us. And…God’s dream will do!

Thank you, Father, for the wisdom we receive from Scripture, and help us to look to your Word to guide us through the Holy Spirit . In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson

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