I have owned four Labradors over the years. Every one of them had dreams. Most of these dog dreams looked violent, even nightmarish.
Muscles jerking, lips twitching, teeth bared, paws running, barking, growling—they look like some Freudian alter ego quivering on the living room floor.
(Photo by Eugene0126jp. Own work, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
I’m convinced that if I would connect their tails to a 220-volt cable and turn on the juice, they would not have convulsed more violently.
On one occasion I literally thought our dog Rayah was having a seizure, so I touched her. She stopped convulsing, looked up at me, took a deep breath, and closed her glassy eyes again. Just a dream. No wonder Labradors snooze twelve to eighteen hours a day. They need rest from all that exhausting sleep! (Our current Lab snores louder than any human I’ve heard.)
I have often wondered what our dogs dream. I mean, all they know of the world comes from the backyard. What could be so exciting?
A dog’s dreams are frequent and violent, therefore comical—and insignificant.
Our own dreams, however, get more attention. But should they?
Our Dreams and Their Reasons
If we remember our dreams when we awake, we find they usually reflect a slice of reality flavored with an offbeat imagination—like Alice in some funky wonderland. (My wife designs houses in her dreams.) Have you ever wondered, Why in the WORLD did I dream that?
Even though we seldom take our dreams seriously, they do mean more to us than dog dreams. At least we wonder why we dreamed them. Even weird dreams have reasons—whether they betray a fearful subconscious, a distressing memory, or just bad pizza from the night before.
Dreams in the Bible, however, often represented more than nocturnal brain waves. They served as a means of divine revelation from God.
(Photo: “Jacob’s Dream” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Divine Revelation in Dreams
Here are only a few individuals in Scripture who received divine revelation from God in dreams:
- Abimelech (Genesis 20:3)
- Jacob (Genesis 31:10)
- Laban (Genesis 31:24)
- Solomon (1 Kings 3:5)
- Joseph (Matthew 1:20; 2:13)
- Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19)
Filtering Dreams through Scripture
Does God speak in dreams today? Some missionary testimonies seem hard to refute. But these exceptional experiences are just that—and they don’t endorse a new norm or standard for us.
- While our dreams may have reasons, we need to guard against the temptation of assigning them meaning.
- What we think about when we sleep reflects who we are, indeed. But we have insufficient New Testament permission to interpret our dreams as direct revelation from God.
The author to the book of Hebrews relates how God spoke in the Old Testament “to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways.” Then he adds that God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Living with the Tension of Limited Knowledge
The New Testament records all God wants us to know about what Jesus said, as well as how believers should live until Christ comes for us.
- New Testament authors repeatedly point us to Scripture, not to some other means of hearing from God.
- Although the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we want to know, it does tell us all we need to know.
It will always seem easier (and far more sensational) to be a mystic than to be biblically literate. Mystics don’t wait to hear from God in His timing. They don’t live by faith. The direct line they claim to have with God is a mere expression of immaturity and impatience.
God has already spoken, and His Word remains sufficient. We have the end of the story. We need no additional revelation.
We just need to read the Bible and follow the divine revelation we already have.