Recently I created a sign and started sitting out on the side of the road offering “free pray and dream interpretation.” The “free prayer” part is fairly straight forward and is typically non-controversial. The latter part, however, caused some folks to raise their eyebrows and wonder if I had left the straight and narrow path of the Scriptures.
Knowing that people have questions, I have decided post my thought about dream interpretation and the Scriptural support for such activity. Well, support for interpreting dreams that is – sitting on the side of the road in rural Idaho offering such a service may have ran afoul of culturally appropriateness and, well, been unwise… =/
In today’s modern world folks normally do not talk about or mention dreams – they are things of mystery that are to be dismissed as foolishness. Yet the Scriptures are full of stories about God talking to people through dreams. Jacob saw a staircase into heaven (Gen 28:12), Joseph saw his future (Gen 37), the wise men returned home after visiting Jesus because of a dream (Mt 2:12), and Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, had multiple dreams encouraging him to do lots of crazy things like marry the pregnant girl Mary, flee to Egypt and then return home to Israel (Mt 1:20, 2:13, 19, 22).
Then there is Joseph who interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh, his cupbearer and baker (Gen 40-41). Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar dreams and became the chief wise man of Babylon, a position that most likely included interpreting future dreams (Daniel 2, 4). Gideon received encouragement when a member of his army shared his dream to a friend who then interpreted the dream and informed Gideon of its meaning (Judges 7).
We must also take into consideration that large portions of Scripture are actually dreams and/or visions written down and saved (visions are similar to dreams only they typically happen while one is awake versus when asleep). Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Revelations all continue dreams/visions that are daily interpreted by people around the world. It would therefore seems that the Scriptures actually support interpreting the dreams of others (both believers and non-believers) rather than forbidding it.
I would even say that offering to interpret someone’s dreams is, in a lot of ways, akin to offering to pray for someone who is sick to get healed. Both are done through the power of Holy Spirit at God’s choosing – we don’t heal people nor do we interpret dreams according to our wisdom. In both events we ask God to come into the situation and reveal to us what is going on.
To go even further, you could even say that dream interpretation is actually fairly close to prophecy as Numbers 12:6 tells us that God speaks His prophets “in dreams” and “visions” – a promise that was enlarged by Pentecost to include all followers of Jesus (Acts 2:17, quoting Joel 2:28). St. Paul even tells us to “eagerly desire” the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1)!! Yet, sadly enough, I would say that most followers of Jesus are scared of anything remotely prophetic – choosing instead to rely on their own logic and understanding of how the world works. They are disobeying the Scriptures in that they are treating prophecies with contempt and limiting the movement of the Holy Spirit according to their desires and wants (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
Yes, I know that there have been false prophets and teachers in the church at large who have soured a lot of people. There are even folks out there with interpreting dreams via books and recorded symbols – things that stick me as way too ‘human’, something akin to the school of prophets that don’t have a good reputation in the Scriptures (i.e. they tended to oppose the true prophets of the Lord). However we must be careful not to allow such experiences to keep us from pursuing and/or allowing Jesus to move among His people in the manner He wants to move. If we think about it, there are very few churches out there even close to the abuse found in the 1st century church at Corinth. Yet St. Paul, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, did not tell them to stop pursuing spiritual gifts, including prophecy, dreams and visions (1 Corinthians 12-14). Instead, he told them to continue to pursue such things while being careful to avoid abuses and, ultimately, to keep their eyes on Jesus and not the gifts or miracles themselves.
For me, dream interpretation is simply listening to someone’s dream and then asking Jesus what does it mean. If the dream was from Jesus, then He will provide the interpretation, not me. If it is just a random dream like folks get with no meaning, well, then that is what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. Of course, people like to often find meaning and interpretation in many different kinds of dreams, such as why there were many bees in dreams they’ve had or other visual experiences they might see. The whole thing is about loving people and giving them a safe place to talk about a subject that they would not usually talk about.
And, yes, all interpretations are to be tested by the Scriptures and the heart of the person who dreamed the dream. As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” If a dream interpretation does not strengthen, encourage, and comfort a person – and ultimately lead that person into a deeper relationship with Jesus – then it is to be tossed out.
In conclusion, there is a strong Scriptural support for interpreting the dreams of others. Culturally, folks may not like or agree with the concept, but one would be hard-pressed to say that dream interpretation is un-Biblical.