Summary: In the dim light of a Star and the witness of dreams wise men were guided by God to find and worship Jesus, how much more ought we who have the plain Word of God to do so!
When God Speaks Through Dreams
What do you think about dreams?
The Greek words for dream occur only 9 times in the New Testament; six times in Matthew, where every one of them has a message from God. Acts 2:17 and Jude 8 contain the other three. Acts speaks of the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work when He is poured forth on the young and old. Jude’s reference is a warning about dreamers who defile the flesh and reject authority. Jude reminds us, who needs a vision when you have a verse. In the Old Testament the Hebrew words for dream occurs 102 times.
A brief look at the passages in Matthew that speak of dreams reveals an amazing conviction that God was speaking in them. Let’s look at these and then discuss what we can learn from.
Matt 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matt 2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matt 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."
Matt 2:19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt
20 and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead."
Matt 2: 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,
Matt 27:19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."
What do Joseph the husband of Mary, Wise men from the east, and Pilate’s wife all have in common in Matthew? They all had dreams that they considered to be messages from God.
Joseph had four dreams that were messages from God.
The Wise men had a dream that was a message from God.
Pilate’s wife had a disturbing dream about Jesus, was that one from God too?
Before we wade into these dreams lets notice how they fit in with other evidences. As we begin to study Matthew’s gospel, we discover several witnesses to Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus is a witness, the prophecies of the Old Testament are witnesses, the star that appeared was a witness, a dream to Joseph bore witness, and, of course, the virgin birth was a witness.
God got attention using several sources. Dreams were one of the means by which God communicated. For Joseph, it would seem that dreams were the main way God chose to communicate warnings and directions. But who else is involved in dreamy communications from heaven? You kind of expect God to speak to Joseph, but what about Magi from the east? These men are not Jews. They have no claim on the covenants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But God communicates with them too. And what about a Roman governor’s wife? Is she just superstitious? Has God spoken in her dreams too?
To me this is an exciting look into the workings of God revealing his will to these people. I was intrigued enough that I decided to see what else the Bible has to say about dreams and such. Are you interested? On your hand-out are all the scriptures that have the word dream in them. It is an impressive list. In fact, in researching this, I read one paper on biblical dreams that said if all the material in the Bible about dreams and the stories surrounding them were compiled it would take up about a third of the Bible. I haven’t had the opportunity to see if that is true, but if you include visions in with that list, you’d have a huge amount of scripture to consider.
God’s word is clear that dreams were a common way that God used in communicating to people in and outside of Israel. The term vision is often connected with dreaming. Sometimes a vision occurs to someone in a time of worship, particularly prayer. For example Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10-11. Paul, and others also experienced visions from God. Some of Paul’s visions also seem to be dreams. Acts 16:9-10, 18:9 and possibly 27:23 all record Paul’s visions in the night. Visions and dreams are connected in Acts 2:17 where Peter, speaking of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh says, Your young men will see visions and your old men dream dreams. This is a parallelism where dreams and visions refer to a similar experience.