Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: Joseph’s Dreams

Scripture: Genesis 37:5-11

Background: Jacob settled down in the land of Canaan, but not all was peaceful. As his sons grew, so did the family strife, especially since Jacob loved his second-to-youngest son more than the other eleven. To make matters worse, Jacob had no problem declaring his favoritism of Joseph, giving him a special tunic as a sign of that favor. This made Joseph the least favorite person among his brothers, a hatred that was only deepened when Joseph announced two dreams that showed he would rule over his brothers someday.

Observations: For the first time in this series, we come to what most think of as a “dream” in connection with the supernatural.

There have been other dreams before this point in Scripture, but they have been God speaking with a sleeping person (e.g. Genesis 20:3, 28:12-15). But here we encounter a different kind of dream. Instead of hearing God’s voice, Joseph envisions sheaves and heavenly bodies acting in peculiar ways to communicate a deeper meaning.

Since this is the first occurrence of such an event, it reveals several things about the nature of dreams:

1. God sometimes communicates specific, personal revelation through dreams. In this case, these dreams applied directly to Joseph and his family. The circumstances conveyed by the dreams were fulfilled in their lifetime. While the account of these dreams became a part of Scripture, they were not scriptural revelation, like would happen later with the prophets. That is, we cannot claim Joseph’s dreams as applicable to us. Some dreams are just for that person and his/her immediate circumstances.

2. Some dreams predict future events. Many dreams, of course, are just that—imaginings conjured by the sleeping mind, with no significance. But others do predict things to come, and sometimes God even duplicates the dream to affirm the truth of the first dream, to show such matters are considered irreversibly settled (see Genesis 41:32).

3. Some dreams are allegorical in nature. Sheaves and stars, the sun and the moon--these were not actually bowing to Joseph nor would they ever. They stood in place of something else; they represented Joseph and his family.

4. Despite an allegorical nature, some interpretations are clear. Joseph did not have to tell his brothers what his dreams meant. He did not have to explain to Jacob. In fact, with each dream, the interpretation was so obvious that Joseph’s father and brothers provide it (verses 8 and 10).

5. God-given dreams may not be initially accepted by others, even those more “mature.” Other’s reactions do not determine the veracity of a dream. Indeed, many of these kinds of dreams deal with uncomfortable subjects. So the rejection of what they proclaim should be expected. (As a side note, though, this doesn’t mean the converse is true: Rejection of a dream does not equal proof that a dream is true.)

Significance: God communicates in a variety of ways with people. Allegorical dreams are just one of those methods.

Obviously we need to tread carefully in this area. As I already stated, many (and probably most) “dreams” people experience today carry no grand significance. But this doesn’t mean it never occurs. If God has done this in the past, it is possible He will do it again.

Now if the dream contradicts Scripture, it is not of God. If it contradicts the character, standard, and revealed will of God, it is not of Him. And even if a dream comes from God, that does not place it on the level of Scripture.

But sometimes God wants to provide unique instructions, reveal a future detail, or give a specific assurance which cannot be found precisely in Scripture, and He wants to apply them to a particular person at a definite time. And in those personal circumstances—who knows? God may chose to use a dream, just like with Joseph.

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