My busy day as a young mother slipped away. I reminded myself to make that call after dinner, yet by bedtime I’d completely forgotten about it.
The telephone woke me early the next morning. Grandpa had died in his sleep with no warning of his heart attack. With anguish I realized my lost opportunity to hear his voice one last time.
Accounts of God-given dreams are sprinkled throughout the Bible. They include dreams that warned of danger, revealed the future, gave instructions, or simply provided encouragement.
The book of Genesis includes the dream of Abraham’s grandson Jacob. Travelling alone and far from home, Jacob dreamed of a ladder covered with angels that reached to heaven. From above, the Lord spoke to him: “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.”1
Jacob eventually became known as Israel. The promise of his dream endures today.
Jacob’s son Joseph had dreams that sowed envy among his eleven brothers. “Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me,”2 Joseph boasted. His brothers sold him to slave traders, and years passed before a famine sent them to Egypt in search of grain. There, they found Joseph in the exalted position that would save them all.
Generations later, God again provided dreams to save his people. Another Joseph had four dreams3 with specific instructions: take Mary as your wife; take the child [Jesus] and his mother to Egypt; return to Israel; settle in the district of Galilee.
The average follower of God might not receive such epic or prophetic dreams as the patriarchs of our faith, but the Bible does include many dream stories, and some of those involve less notable people, like Pontius Pilate’s wife. Having dreamed about Jesus, she warned her husband to have nothing to do with the punishment of “that righteous man.”4
While dreams are subjective experiences and not always trustworthy, God can speak to us through them. After I recounted a long dream to my husband, Jim, over breakfast one morning, he asked me to write down the details. “I think it means something,” he said.
In the dream, the two of us were trudging along a wilderness path when a snake sprang at us. Unharmed but shaken, we pressed on with little progress until we saw—with great relief—a smooth path ahead.
Two weeks later, Jim came home with jolting news: his job had ended. As the months of his job search passed, we kept the dream in mind. We felt the Lord had encouraged us that something good would come. And, soon enough, the dream was indeed fulfilled.
[From the English Standard Version: 1Gen. 28:13; 2Gen. 37:9; 3Matt. 1:20, 2:13, 19, 22; 4Matt. 27:19]
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