Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: Night Visions

Scripture: Job 4:12-21, 33:13-18

Caught up in the agony of his many trials, Job finally gives voice to his pain. What follows is a long debate between Job and three of his friends about the source of human pain and God’s dealings with man. The first passage we’re considering comes from the first response by one of Job’s friends (Eliphaz) following the initial outburst, telling of a night visitor he had. The second passage comes from an outside observer of the debate (Elihu), where he talks about how God manipulates the dreams of men.

Observations: Both of these passages make mention of supernatural visitations during the night. This reveals that dreams and night visions are real and used by the supernatural to communicate with humans, possibly because the human mind loses some of its guards and inhibitions during sleep, making communication easier (see Job 33:15-16 specifically).

This does not mean that every dream is supernaturally inspired. But it does mean that some are. Even more, dreams and night visions can come from either God or the demonic.

In Elihu’s speech (Job 33:13-18), he makes it clear that God sometimes uses dreams/night visions to warn us, especially if we are failing to hear Him in other ways (33:14). The purpose of such visitations is to turn us from sin and to protect us from death.

What a far cry from Eliphaz’s vision in chapter 4! Notice the accusatory tone, both of man (v. 17) and of God (v. 18), to the point of implying that God is unjust. And while there is truth in these words (e.g. man is not righteous in of himself), it’s subtly mixed with lies: We don’t perish unobserved (v. 20) for God sees all. And while God does not trust demons (rebel angels) and He charges them with error, this doesn’t apply to all angels, evidenced by the various missions He entrusts His angels with. The result is a tone of despair and hopelessness. All these things point to a demonic, and maybe even a Satanic, visitation.

Significance: So what can we learn from all this?

1. We are more susceptible during the night and while asleep than during our waking hours. So we need to guard ourselves and our thoughts during the night. This is why we should be careful about where we let our minds wander as we fall asleep; Eliphaz’s disquieting thoughts/dreams (see 4:13 in IVE or NASB) seemed to open the way for the demonic visitation. This is why the psalmists so often refer to meditating on Scripture on their beds and why we need to pray for protection while we sleep—not only physical, but mental as well.

2. Supernatural beings do use dreams and visions to communicate with us. As I already said, not all dreams and visions are supernaturally inspired. However, this doesn’t mean that none of our visions or dreams are supernaturally inspired, either.

3. Even in dreams and visions, Satan must speak his native tongue of lies. Does the dream twist the truth, mix in lies, carry an accusatory tone (rather than a warning tone), or produce despair or hopelessness? Then the dream should be rejected as from Satan, no mater how good it sounds.

4. God speaks to us in many ways, including dreams and visions. God often prefers to use other means to talk to us, but sometimes we fail to hear Him in those ways (v. 33:14). At those times, He may resort to dreams and visions, usually with the intent to warn (not accuse) and instruct us. So does the dream yield repentance from sin, produce humility, or somehow result in the preservation of life? Then it may be from God.

5. Therefore, we must, we must, we must be discerning. Both God and Satan can use this vulnerable time. Not all dreams and visions come from God. Not all of them come from Satan. They must be tested against the truth of Scripture and the already revealed character of God.

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