But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph…

Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee…

Matthew 1:20 & 24; 2:13, 19, 22

In the birth narrative of Jesus, in the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, God communicates to Joseph four different times through a dream. This is consistent with other times throughout scripture where God communicates through dreams (to Jacob – Genesis 28:10-17; to Joseph – Genesis 37:1-11; to Daniel – Daniel 7; to pagan kings – Genesis 41, Daniel 2 & 4) In the Old Testament, King Saul expected dreams to be one of the ways, along with the prophets, that God communicated with him (1 Samuel 28:6).

The prophet Joel prophesied of a time when, because every believer would have access to the Holy Spirit, dreams would be a normal method of communication between God and His people. When the Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter recognizes that moment as fulfillment of the Joel prophecy and quotes Joel 2:

“‘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.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18 (quoting Joel 2:28-29)

Some people experience more dreams than others. And often, if those dreams are not ignored, God will speak more and more to those kind of people through their dreams. The Holy Spirit has made this possible.

Not all dreams are from God. The three main sources of our dreams are: 1)our sub-conscience (unresolved emotions or food we ate the night before), 2) the Holy Spirit, or 3) the demonic realm. Often dreams from the Holy Spirit will be filled with light, bright colors, a sense of profound meaning, or vivid in details. Dreams from our own sub-conscience won’t feel as weighty with meaning and will often feel disjointed and disconnected. Dreams planted from the kingdom of darkness will often be full of fear, dark, violent, and will have grey and muted colors (if not colorless).

If we have a dream, we need to: 1) write it down (as much as we can remember), 2) pray for discernment as to its origin, 3) pray for discernment about the meaning or interpretation of the dream (dreams are often highly symbolic in nature), and 4) seek out help from discerning people and people with the gift of interpretation to bring understanding to our dreams.

For those who are willing to have eyes to see and ears to hear, God is willing to speak to us through our dreams. We will have to be discerning as we unpack the meaning and solve the riddle that dreams often are. But God doesn’t hide things from us; He hides things for us. Many in the Body of Christ are dreamers gifted with this form of the gift of prophecy and yet have never been trained to utilize this gift for the glory of God.

Are you a dreamer?

I Had A Dream

“We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Genesis 40:8

Joseph was a dreamer (Genesis 37:5-9) like his dad Jacob (Genesis 28:12-17). Joseph, like the prophet Daniel (Daniel 2 & 4), was also able to interpret dreams through the gift that God had given him.

Dreams are one of the primary ways that God talks to people. One reason this seems to be the case is that it is one of the only times our rationality doesn’t get in the way of God speaking. Dreams from God are often highly symbolic and need the help of an interpretation in order to understand them. It’s like the creative writer who has to find a way for their inner editor, the rational side of the brain, to be quiet so that their creativity can emerge. Otherwise, they experience writer’s block. If they are able to silence their critical thinking, they get into a zone where the creativity flows and the story takes on a life of its own.

This is the same reason God speaks to us in our dreams. He wants a blank canvas on which to paint without our doubts, cynicism, criticism, and rationalism plugging our ears.

A few weeks ago a guy in our church had a dream where he was told to go back for prayer after one of our church services. He obeyed what God told him to do in the dream, received prayer for physical healing, and he was healed! It wasn’t an audible voice of God in His dream, but more of an impression. It was just slight enough to ignore if he wanted to and yet just strong enough to obey if he was willing to step out in faith. He chose to obey, stepped out in faith, and he got healed.

I was praying for a friend the other day, and I asked the Lord to reveal the source of some of her struggles. A few days later she had a dream that highlighted the main source of some of her issues. The Holy Spirit answered our prayer by giving her a dream. The dream made things crystal clear.

I value counseling and psychology. I was a Family Studies minor in college where our main focus was learning the dynamics of family systems theory. Psychology is important and valuable. Unfortunately, parts of it have led us to devalue our dreams. Our culture chalks our dreams up to being totally from our subconscious or some weird reaction to the food we ate the night before. And while this is true of some dreams, it is not true of all dreams.

Our dreams have three sources: 1) our subconscious; 2) the enemy and his kingdom of darkness; or 3) the Holy Spirit. We need to pay attention to our dream if it seems meaningful or significant. It could be a way God is trying to speak to us. We may need others to pray with us for discernment and for an interpretation. If we have dreams that are full of fear, terror, or disturbing and dark imagery, it may be an attack from the enemy. If it doesn’t seem to have a message and doesn’t seem to be significant, it may just be our subconscious or something we ate. All three are real possibilities.

But just because it isn’t always the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that it is never the Holy Spirit. Many people who say, “I just don’t hear from God,” don’t understand the different ways that God can communicate with us.

Right now, throughout the Middle East, hundreds and hundreds of Muslim people are having dreams of a man in white who says his name is Jesus and who sends them to go talk to a local missionary in order to hear more about who He is. Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus by the hundreds through these kinds of dreams.

In the Bible, dreams have always been a way God speaks to people, and dreams will continue to be a way He speaks today.