The Meaning of Dreams & Visions

Acts 2:1-4, 12-17 NIV - When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them…   12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams…”

 Genesis 37:8-11 ESV -  His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

Like Joseph’s, some dreams appear to have pretty clear meanings.  Even then, Jacob pondered the meaning of his young son’s dreams.  On the one hand, Joseph did well to share his dreams with his wise and experienced father.  On the other hand, sharing his dreams with carnal and envious brothers caused Joseph a lot of pain.  Even when dreams and visions have seemingly clear meanings, we should exercise caution about with who we share them.  Not everyone will be as excited as you are about your dream or vision - even if it’s from God!  While none of us has the same ministry as the Prophet Daniel in the Old Testament, there are some principles to consider from this man who had a number of dreams and visions from God…

 Daniel 2:16-30 NIV - At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. 17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” 24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.” 25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.” 26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these: 29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

 Daniel needed understanding to know the meaning of the king’s vision.  Notice what he did:

  1. Clarify the need for understanding to your godly and spiritual friends then urge them to pray for God to explain the meaning.  Don’t do life alone, join a life-giving small group for prayer and encouragement.

  2. Worship God for giving you understanding.

  3. Honestly credit God for your supernatural ministry rather than fancy yourself as superior to others.

Because of the subjective nature of dreams and visions - and their possible interpretations, there’s not much advice I can give that beats how the prophet Daniel wrote concerning his handling of dreams and visions from God.  Daniel had some dreams and visions that were troubling and some that made him rejoice.  Others were simply confusing to him.  But notice his response:

Daniel 8:15a DBT - And it came to pass, when I Daniel had seen the vision, I sought for the understanding of it…

How quickly do we seek the opinions of others rather than seeking God for the meaning of a dream or vision?  How quickly to we assume the meaning of a dream or vision rather than patiently seeking God in prayer and fasting like Daniel did?  If a prophet such as Daniel had to desperately seek God for understanding the meaning of his dreams, what lessons can we take away from his example?