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At times, God speaks to individuals in dreams and visions for correction or reproof. When He does this, He has usually already been working behind the scenes in the person's life and they have not been responding that well. At that point God may give them a warning vision or corrective dream, to try and get them to repent and correct their error.
Job 33:14-18 says, "For God does speak--now one way, now another--though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, He may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword."
We have an example of this from the life of Nebuchadnezzar. Let's start with a little background from Nebuchadnezzar's life, and then we will see how God brought correction to him in a vision.
Nebuchadnezzar was the powerful and mighty king of Babylon. He was in the habit of conquering and pillaging surrounding kingdoms, then carrying the best of the conquered lands back home for his own use. This included bringing people back as captives. He would set aside the brightest and most promising of the people as his own servants, after putting them through an intensive training program. The book of Daniel tells us, "Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility -- young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service" (Dan 1:3-5).
God had chosen Nebuchadnezzar, even though he was not a godly man, even though he did not know or serve God. In fact, Daniel 1:2 tells us that he had his own personal idol, who he credited for his many military victories. But God decided to use Nebuchadnezzar as His instrument in bringing judgment against a sinful and rebellious nation of Judah (His chosen people). God even referred to the heathen Nebuchadnezzar as "My servant" in Jeremiah 25:8-9 which says, "'Because you have not listened to My words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and My servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,' declares the Lord , 'and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them ..." Again in Jeremiah 27:6, God said, "Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him."
Jeremiah 34:2 records the siege of Jerusalem and God's commentary on it: "I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down." And God went on to say, in Jeremiah 27:8, "'If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague,' declares the Lord, 'until I destroy it by his hand.'"
In short God choose Nebuchadnezzar to be His servant, and empowered him in battle. He did this before Nebuchadnezzar realized it or honored God' But because God had chosen him, He also began to work in his life and circumstances to convert him. God set aside some very godly men (Daniel and his three companions) to become trusted advisors to Nebuchadnezzar and to begin to teach him of God. Daniel 1:18-20 tells us, "At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." God was at work behind the scenes to convert Nebuchadnezzar and gain his heart.
Next, God gave Nebuchadnezzar a troubling dream that he needed to have interpreted. Nebuchadnezzar was a shrewd man, and he realized that the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers could make up any interpretation and he would not be able to tell if it was a true interpretation or not. So he presented them with this challenge -- in order that I know that your interpretation is correct, you must tell me what the dream was and then tell me the interpretation of it. Of course, none of them could do that. Then Daniel was brought before the king, and he prayed and sought God, and God gave him both the dream and the interpretation. Daniel was very careful to credit God with the revelation in Daniel 2:27-28, "Daniel replied, 'No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these..." Then Daniel proceeded to give the dream in vivid detail.
Nebuchadnezzar's reaction to this appears to be a partial conversion. Starting at verse 46, we see, "Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.' Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men."
However, Nebuchadnezzar still had a way to go. He added the true God to his collection of gods and truly honored him, but he did not give up idolatry or his prideful ways. Daniel 3 gives the account of King Nebuchadnezzar making a huge image of gold and requiring everyone in his kingdom, especially the magistrates and leaders, to worship it. We do not have an account of Daniel's activities in this chapter -- perhaps he was out of town on some official business? But chapter three details Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego taking a stand and refusing to bow down to this idol. And through this stand, Nebuchadnezzar learns that God's servants may only worship Him and not any other idol or "god". As a result of this encounter, Nebuchadnezzar ends up declaring, in Daniel 3:28-29, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way."
God was progressively working on Nebuchadnuzzar's heart through a series of carefully orchestrated circumstances. The king began to recognize God's sovereignty, but he was unwilling to personally follow His ways. He was proud and arrogant and apparently involved in various sins. So God moved up to the next level and dealt directly with him in Daniel chapter 4.
Daniel 4:4-6 tell us, "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me." Daniel is brought in to interpret the vision for him. Part of that vision was "He called in a loud voice: 'Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him" (Daniel 4:14-17).
Daniel gave him the interpretation in verses 25 to 27: "You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that heaven rules. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue."
In short, God gave Nebuchadnezzar advanced warning of a coming judgment in a vision. God also told him how he could avoid the punishment by repenting of his pride and turning from sin. As it turned out, the king ignored the warning and went through the seven year judgment. At the end of that time, he repented and his sanity and position were restored, just like his vision had predicted. He appeared to learn the lesson because he said, in Daniel 4:37, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble."
There are times when uses visions or dreams to bring correction or rebuke to people -- both saved and unsaved -- in order to get them to turn to Him and repent of a sin in their lives.