Does God speak to us in dreams?
There is a the Bible story of Abraham and his young son, Isaac, ascending a mountain where Abraham—we are told— was instructed by God to offer the lad to God. We do not doubt the details of this account as raw and unconscionable as it may sound to us. Song writer Billy Fields interprets this event in a more acceptable way:
It’s not your Isaac that God wants/He wants you.1
There is the subtlest hint in the wording of Genesis 22:3 that this instruction was given Abraham in a dream.2 (“Early the next morning Abraham got up and …”) The Bible offers many examples of God relating His will or desire through a dream.3
A dream from God might be nothing more than an encouraging interlude4 in an otherwise overstressed situation.5 A dream can be an oasis in the desert, a time when the day’s burdens can be dismissed ‘with prejudice’ so the following morning we may start fresh with a song in the heart, a quick step in our gait and an awareness that, in more than one way, it is a new day.
Sometimes a dream is just a dream, but on that rare occasion when God chooses, it may become a vehicle of communication that goes beyond the daytime resources of our encouragement. God in a dream can take us a level higher emotionally into the world of metaphor that is just as real to us (in REM sleep) but not hindered by the cultural and psychological restrictions that conscience imposes on our actions.6 In this world the impossible is expected, entertained, and lived out—where men fly from impending dangers, where romance is magical, where heroism is the achievement of cowards. And, yes! Here God finds us uninfluenced by the advice and counsel of friends, Here God can reach us, if He chooses, floating free, not held down emotionally by the gravitational chains of preconceived notions, by the social restrictions our waking reality demands. (Trust your dreams to serve you even if—as is most common—you forget what you dreamed;7 you only know that you had a great night’s sleep.)
2 The language is in a narration style that suggests this. The grammatical construct is a ‘vav conversive’ or a conversational style connected by the word “and” suggesting an unbroken story line. וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם אַבְרָהָ֜ם בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַֽיַּחֲבֹשׁ֙ אֶת־חֲמֹר֔וֹ
3 One count offers 65 uses of the word “dream” in 55 different verses. An example is Joseph’s dream. Biblical scholarship cannot deny this was God given. Genesis 37:5 Joseph had a dream, and …he told it to his brothers… verse 7: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
4 Genesis 20:6 Then God said to him [Abimelech who would have wed Abraham’s wife thinking it was his sister.] in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
5 In Genesis 31:11 Jacob is encouraged in a dream to return home where he thinks his life is in danger. “The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’” and verse 13: “go back to your native land.”
6 Sometimes we recall them as feeling more intensely real than waking reality. It is as if, while dreaming, we are ‘locked’ in our dream, removed from the outside world, engaged in something important. And that is exactly the case…. ibid. (Kindle Locations 671-673).
7 Dr. Griffin, who is not concerned with divine revelations, tells us: …it is actually important that we forget our dreams. When we are awake, the hippocampus, the conscious memory store, holds our memories of recent events and quickly deconstructs those memories and sends them to various parts of the cortex – the parts concerned with vision, hearing, touch, etc. – for storage. It does that to facilitate efficient pattern matching. But … if the dream is allowed to be stored as a real memory, it will corrupt the memory store and greatly diminish our ability reliably to predict the outcome of similar experiences in the future. ibid. (Kindle Locations 976-980).