Have you ever wondered why God speaks to us though dreams which need interpreting, rather than by more direct methods?
One reason God does this is to circumnavigate our understanding and reveal our blind spots. In this article I give an example from the bible, and one from a real dream.
I have a blind side
Sometimes I puzzle over dreams for days before I understand what God is trying to say. At times I get weary and wish things could be a little easier! However I have gradually come to appreciate this process, because God uses it to help me see past myself and show me His perspective.
I have so often thought I was right and turned out to be wrong. I have been convinced my ideas were correct, only to find I was way off-track. The harsh truth is this: I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to understanding life, and this can hinder me from hearing God’s voice. I have a blind side.
Jesus referred to this when he likened it to having a ‘plank’ in our eye. He said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
The example of David and Nathan
One of my favourite biblical illustrations of how God addresses our blind spots can be found in 2 Samuel 12. For those who don’t know the story, this is the background:
One spring, while his men went off to war, King David remained in Jerusalem. While he was there he looked out from his palace and saw a beautiful woman called Bathsheba bathing, and he ended up sleeping with her. Bathsheba then found out that she was pregnant. So after various plans to get her husband to come back home, and failing, David then sent him to the front line so that he was killed in battle. After that David took Bathsheba to be his wife and she gave birth to a son.
In response to this, God gave Nathan the prophet a word for David, which came in the form of a parable. It is important to remember that David didn’t know it was an illustration. Nathan presented it to David as though it was a real situation that needed David’s response. David thought it was about someone else.
The parable (2 Samuel 12:1-3)
“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
When David heard this story we learn that he was indignant. Verse 5 tells us that he ‘burned with anger’ and replied to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Now comes the punchline: Nathan reveals to David that he is actually the rich man in the story! This parable is really a reflection of David’s own life, and David has judged himself and found himself wanting. Here is the explanation and interpretation of the parable:
The interpretation (2 Samuel 12: 7-10)
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘ I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.”
I can only imagine how horror-stricken David must have been when he understood the message. It’s hard to comprehend how he hadn’t realised what he had done until that moment, but somehow he had managed to turn a blind eye to his own sin, and did not see it. But isn’t that what we do ourselves? Don’t we often turn a blind eye to our own faults? Sometimes we genuinely can’t see them and we need someone else to enlighten us.
The moment of reckoning came in verse 13, when David responded to Nathan saying, “I have sinned against the Lord”. Psalm 51 is a beautiful expression of David’s repentance. Here are the first few lines:
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
Sadly the child went on to die, but David and Bathsheba had another son called Solomon who became King, and Jesus was eventually born from their generational line. I love this, because this shows redemption in operation.
We able to respond and change
And this, I think, is the whole point! Once we realise what God is showing us, we are free to make a good response, rather than continuing on in our own failings. Moreover, we are able to submit to God as he sets us free from the past, and brings transformation in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
Those of us who have been followers of Jesus for a while know that transformation is an ongoing process. However this process is not possible unless God is somehow able to show us our wrong thinking. He can do this through other people, but He can also do it directly Himself. Our dreams are a powerful tool that He can use for this purpose if we are prepared to take notice of them.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2
An example of a real dream
I will illustrate this process with an example of how God used a dream to show me one of my blind spots.
Dream: An alligator escapes
I dreamt that I was visiting my cousin Danny’s house. He had an alligator locked up in one of the upstairs bedrooms. It escaped and attacked a deer that was in the garden. I had to call Danny to help me get it back into confinement again, and felt cross that he shouldn’t have let it escape.
At first glance, this dream doesn’t appear to be about me at all because it was my cousin Danny’s alligator that escaped. Let us consider a couple of symbols in the dream:
Danny’s house: Danny comes from ‘ Daniel’, who was a well known prophet in the bible. So this dream was set in the context of the prophetic, and its intended function of speaking out for good.
The alligator: An alligator has a big mouth with lots of teeth, so in dreams it usually represents being attacked through words, for example with criticism or gossip. In fact, it is the exact opposite of the intended purpose of prophecy!
As I considered this dream, I realised that like David, I was holding up a mirror to my own life. I thought it was about someone else, but in fact I was the one who was letting my words get out of control and being critical of others, instead of building them up. My interpretation was something like this (written as though from God):
“Your words have a big impact on others, more than you realise, and you have been using them in a critical way recently. Let’s get them back under control and start using your words for good as I intended.”
James 3:1-12 carries a similar message, regarding ‘taming the tongue’, but there is nothing quite like a personal correction from God! Of course I repented! That dream has always stayed with me, and whenever I dream about alligators I always do a double check to see whether I am using my words in a harmful way. I don’t want to have to face correction like that again, although I know God is very kind, and ALWAYS gives me hope for change.
My mind often gets in the way of me hearing God’s voice. I jump to conclusions. I rationalise away what my spirit is trying to tell me, and I am very good at overlooking my own stumbling blocks. I have discovered that dreams are God’s way of getting around those things. I settle down for a sleep, my mind switches off, and then God gives me a dream that changes everything!
It is always worth asking the question, “Is this relecting an area of my own life?”
God uses dreams with us in the same way that he used a story with King David, to reflect David’s condition back to himself. I have learnt that even when one of my dreams seems to be about someone else, that it is always worth considering whether it could actually be reflecting an area of my own life.
I love the fact that God uses dreams in this way, and that my Heavenly Father cares enough to help me navigate this life. He doesn’t leave me in my own mess. He lovingly corrects, me and helps me become increasingly more like the person I was created to be.
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