Thursday, March 17, 2016

On the Strength of their Dreams

“The dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3 NASB).

Lately a Christian friend of mine—who is struggling to hear from the Lord—has taken a keen interest in dream interpretation.  He’s having numerous dreams, and then he relates them to me and a handful of friends.  Occasionally I see something, and I relate it to him, and he is no further enlightened.  Additionally, he gets numerous and varied interpretations from those handful of friends.  Putting all of our interpretations together, however—and with the few interpretations he conjures up himself—is contradictory, confusing, and ultimately very frustrating to him.

Some years back, I went to a home meeting where two ladies taught dream interpretation.  As the meeting progressed, I was spiritually agitated and sensed error.  These ladies taught a rigid symbolism that placed objects, colors, emotions, etc. in very specific meanings; they basically forced their interpretation onto others under the auspice of expertise.  Throughout the meeting people shared their dreams, and as these two ladies interpreted them, the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and showing me a different interpretation.  Many things they were saying I was seeing differently, and as I could, I spoke out about what I was seeing.  But alas, THEY were the “experts,” so I was hardly heard.
       
There are many books on dream interpretation, both from a Christian and New Age/secular perspective.  Too often, however—and I’m speaking to the Christian—there is mixture and formulation rather than purity and spontaneity.  The young dreamer Joseph said “DO NOT INTERPRETATIONS BELONG TO GOD?” in response to two downcast souls who said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it” (Genesis 40:8 NASB).  Now the fact that Joseph was the channel through which God interpreted their dreams does not change the fact that “Interpretations belong to God.”  It only means that God can use anyone, anything, or even Himself directly, to communicate with man.

Please allow me some latitude as I seemingly go sideways or even backwards in order to fill in some gaps in our understanding.  Let us look at various excerpts of Scripture which touch on different aspects of dreaming.

When Joseph was brought before Pharaoh two years after his encounter with those two “downcast souls,” his fellow inmates (the cupbearer and the baker), he said to Pharaoh, “Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh TWICE [emphasis mine], it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about” (Genesis 41:32 NASB). “Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him TWICE [emphasis mine], and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded” (1 Kings 11:9-10 NASB). “Once God has spoken; TWICE [emphasis mine] I have heard this: that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).  A severe reprimand came to Peter in this two-fold form, “Before a rooster crows TWICE [emphasis mine], you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:72).

In another example, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.  But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.  A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’  Again a voice came to him A SECOND TIME [emphasis mine], ‘What God has cleansed no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky” (Acts 10:9-16 NASB).

EXACTLY TWO YEARS AGO today (on 3/17/2014)...this just happened without any scheme or orchestration on my part, I wrote the following article:
 
Face to Face

“There is much talk in Christendom in our times about God speaking to us in dreams, and it is undeniably scriptural and something I have occasionally experienced myself.  But I cannot help but be less enamored with that mode of communication than it seems many are concerning it.  And maybe because it seems too ethereal to me, or that I have little experience in it, but I’d rather talk with God while I’m awake at my study, or in my quiet time before Him in prayer, and in the full cognizance of my mind and heart, physically alert.

“Now I am aware that He seals His instructions to me while I sleep, and that if I am obtuse, He will come to me in a dream.  “Why do you complain against Him that He does not give an account of all His doings?  Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it.  In a dream, a vision of the night, when sound sleep falls on men, while they slumber in their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction,
that He may turn man aside from his conduct, and keep man from pride; He keeps back his soul from the pit, and his life from passing over into Sheol” (Job 33:13-18 NASB).

“And it has also occurred to me that the first time the word dream is mentioned in holy writ is in context with death, not life.  “God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, ‘Behold, YOU ARE A DEAD MAN” (Genesis 20:3 NASB).  I have come to accept what theologians call “the rule of first mention.”  When a word is first used in scripture, it is often (if not always) the seedbed of every subsequent usage of that word; thus its first usage sets the tone and context in which to understand it from God’s perspective.  So, in that vein of thought, dreams are warnings, not warm and friendly conversations per se. 

“Please don’t misunderstand me, a warning is a kindness from God, not an open rebuke (YET).  I hope God gives me as many dreams needed to keep me back from the pit of hell, but I more hope that I would live in such a manner as to not need them at all.  I want to know God face to face, in open, awake, and straight modes of communication.  And I have learned that in deep humility, in utter poverty of person, He comes to me face to face; the pure in heart see God, and I would suggest, face to face. 

“When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent.  Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses FACE TO FACE, JUST AS A MAN SPEAKS TO HIS FRIEND [emphasis mine]” (Exodus 33:10-11).  Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth...If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make myself known to him in a vision.  I SHALL SPEAK WITH HIM IN A DREAM.  NOT SO, WITH MY SERVANT MOSES, HE IS FAITHFUL IN ALL MY HOUSEHOLD [emphasis mine]; with him I speak mouth to mouth (obviously also face to face), even openly, and NOT IN DARK SAYINGS, and HE BEHOLDS THE FORM OF THE LORD” (Exodus 12:3, 6-8 NASB).
 
“Therefore...we...are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away (the old covenant) ... But we all (Christians, part of the new covenant based on better promises), with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:12-13, 18 NASB).

“In the final analysis, dreams are at the fringes of relationship, necessary as they may be in any one of us, me included.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be at the fringes or the hems of the outer garments of healing virtue, as great as that is when I wander and need it.  No, I want to know God, and face to face!  If Moses could, and did, and seemingly because he was the humblest man on the face of the earth, and via a less glorious covenantal relationship, how come we don’t know Him better, even face to face?  I don’t know about you, but if I am to fight for anything amongst flesh and blood, let me scrap to be the humblest man on the face of the earth if that is what it takes to know Him face to face.  Dreams are for sleepers and accomplished in the dark; reality is for those that are awake and accomplished in the light.  Help us Lord to see your form in clear relief and to know you as our friend, not in dark sayings and dreams of the night, but in open daylight face to face.”

---End of “Face to Face” Article---

It is clear that a hierarchy developed amongst those who followed Jesus.  In concentric circles from inner and smaller and more intimate relationships with Jesus to outer and larger and less intimate relationships with Jesus occurred.  There was the three, the twelve, the seventy, the one-hundred and twenty, and the masses, and to each group He related differently.  On either extreme, His expression was group specific: before the three He transfigured; before the masses He spoke parabolically.

At one end, the Lord is face to face; at the other end, He merely speaks in dark sayings.  Dreams, as a means of communication, are nearer the end of the spectrum of dark sayings, whereas face to face communication is nearer friendship and communion.  Jude, after writing about those “ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” and equated the depths of their depravity to those “who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” said, “In the very same way, ON THE STRENGTH OF THEIR DREAMS [emphasis mine] these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.  But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’  Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them” (Jude 8-10 NIV).

“Then He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream’” (Numbers 12:6 NKJV).  “Now, as for us, we all, with uncovered face, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are having our outward expressions changed into the same image from one degree of glory to another according as this change of expression proceeds from the Lord, the Spirit, this outward expression coming from and being truly representative of our Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, Wuest).  Now I would suggest that this mirror mentioned in the preceding verse is the Logos, the Scriptures, as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.  Prophets moved by the Holy Spirit can certainly edify, exhort and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3), but they also, AND PRIMARILY (in the OFFICE of the prophet, not those merely exercising the GIFT of prophesy), teach, rebuke and correct (2 Timothy 3:16) within the boundaries of the very broad Logos interpreted by the Holy Spirit.
 
I see too many today enamored by THE STRENGTH OF THEIR DREAMS rather than by the beauty of the Lord.  I am not suggesting that we jettison dreaming altogether, but I am suggesting that we press into the Lord more fully until we are close enough to communicate with Him face to face.  In the whole of Scripture, dreams are warnings, corrections and rebukes.  In the first usage of the word “dream” in Genesis 20:3—“You are a dead man!” is its tone and theme; in its last usage, in Jude 1:8—“defiling the flesh” is its stamp.  Look at the tone in a large sampling of its usage: 
    
“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? ... 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? ... ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’” (Jeremiah 23:25-29 NIV).  “His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing.  All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, DREAMERS lying down, who love to slumber” (Isaiah 56:10 NASB).  “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.  For they prophesy falsely to you in my name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 27:8-9 NASB).  “The household gods talk nonsense, the diviners have seen a lie; their dreams convey delusions, and the comfort they offer is in vain.  Therefore they go their way like sheep in distress from lack of a shepherd” (Zechariah 10:2 CJB).

“For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness.  Rather, fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7 NASB).