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I had a series of experiences recently that drove me to the Bible to see just what it had to say about dream interpretation. The process I went through and what I found were both interesting and surprising. I have decided to write a teaching series on this. (This series will contain some Bible teaching in later lessons, but the first few lessons will be more experiential in nature.)
I have always disliked the type of dream interpretation that simply looks up symbols in a book and leaves listening to God out of the process. But I am one of the few that dislikes it, as that style of dream interpretation has become very popular. In fact, one of the major US prophetic ministries has gotten heavily into dream interpretation, and they teach/employ this method.
A friend of mine recently heard a prophet teach on dream interpretation and she became interested in it. I struggled with whether or not to caution her against this universal symbol approach to dream interpretation. As a result of my struggle, I began to pray and ask God what His opinion was. He spent the next two weeks answering that question, using an unusual process to do it. I would like to share that process with you and then share the research that it prompted me to go do.
My friend connected up with this major US prophetic ministry through their web site, and she sent a dream to them to be interpreted. The interpretation that came back was so contrary to who I know my friend to be that it really raised my eyebrows. Her dream went something like this:
One of my molars came out and someone was holding it in their hand. I remember being really surprised when I looked at it because it had both silver and gold fillings, and I thought that was unusual. I had the sense of someone next to me, but could not make out who that person was.
The interpretation that came back was negative and did not seem to fit her at all:
God was communicating to you that you are missing some spiritual understanding due to either legalism or domination by/with/toward those you fellowship with (negative side of the color silver). And there had been some defilement or idolatry (negative side to the color gold) as well.
The dream indicated that the Holy Spirit was there with you. He is and is desiring to tell you that. When teeth are missing there is indication that understanding is lacking (wisdom teeth) (eye teeth indicate the ability to see). The fact the tooth had the colors it did indicates the legalism/domination and defilement or idolatry.
I was so shocked when I heard that interpretation that I nearly dropped my cell phone. That was so uncharacteristic of my friend, who is mature in her faith, very committed to the Lord and submissive to godly authority. My friend was shaken by that interpretation, and that was why she asked me about it. She wondered if maybe she had a blind spot that she needed to address. I know her pretty well and I was not aware of any blind spot of defilement, idolatry, control or legalism.
That experience came about 24 hours after I started asking God what His opinion was of universal symbol dream interpretation (where you look the symbol up in a lookup book to get it's meaning). It seemed like God was telling me that He did not think very highly of this approach.
About a week later, I had a very interesting dream. I lived the dream rather than watching it like a movie. But it was fairly realistic and would make a good plot for an action/suspense thriller movie. The thing that really amazed me about the dream was that I remembered it vividly when I woke up. I usually can't remember my dreams a few minutes after I wake up. But I remembered most of the details on this one hour later. So I prayed and asked God about it, but He did not give me any interpretation. I decided to let it go and not worry about it. I had a lot of bigger things on my mind, like the tsunami that hit parts of South Asia where I personally know people, and the ever-increasing death toll. That very sad and significant current event took my time, attention, energy and prayers, and I did not think more about the dream.
The next night I had two incredible dreams, where God's tangible presence seemed to invade the dream. I woke up feeling very blessed and close to God. I had no trouble remembering either of these dreams, and I was still able to remember the dream from the previous night in vivid detail. I began to feel that God must be trying to tell me something since He was giving me all these dreams. It is a pretty rare thing for me to get dreams from God that I remember after I wake up; I only get 1 or 2 a year. Now, suddenly, I had three in a 24-hour period. That really caught my attention. I began to seek God more seriously for an interpretation. But I was not getting one.
So I began to turn to some of my prophetic friends and acquaintances for help with interpretation. I tried one of my friends. She started by saying that she was not good at dream interpretation. Then she stretched to try and give me one. I did not get any witness to what she suggested, and parts of her interpretation did not even make sense to me.
I was not satisfied and began to look elsewhere for interpretation. I asked an internationally-known prophet acquaintance of mine to interpret it. And the thing that he came back with seemed to be about his issues (or what the dream would have meant to him if he had been the one who dreamed it), not what God might be communicating to me. I could not relate to his interpretation at all. I also asked a friend of mine to interpret from a dream interpretation book. And I sent the dream to an Internet acquaintance who has a ministry of dream interpretation. I was very curious and wanted to know what God was trying to say to me.
I had not heard back from everyone when I went to bed that night. And all of the people who I had heard from all had drastically different interpretations that seemed to contract each other. And I did not get a witness in my spirit to any of them. I began to feel frustrated about this, so I spent some time praying about it before I fell sleep.
The next morning I woke up and prayed intensely to ask God for an interpretation. And He gave me one. It did not follow the complicated themes and symbolism of the various interpretations I had been given. Instead it was very straightforward and it related to a recent event in my life. I will share the dreams and interpretations in a later lesson.
This experience prompted me to start asking another question -- what is wrong with the prophetic in terms of dream interpretation? Why am I getting so many different meanings from so many different prophetic sources? I noticed that many of the interpretation techniques were either mechanical in nature or they were guesswork and conjuncture. And this was all coming from people who hear God clearly and claim to speak for Him. I would have expected all the different sources to have either the same interpretation or complimentary ones.
I started to wonder what the Bible had to say about dream interpretation, so I got out my electronic concordance and looked up all of the Bible verses on dreams and "night visions." The results really surprised me. I had thought the Bible was full of highly symbolic dreams that had to be interpreted by a prophet or by an angel. I found that was not the case at all. There were only six dreams in the Bible that needed interpretation. Five of them were dreams given to unbelievers and the sixth was an Apocalyptic dream that an angel had to interpret for the prophet. In addition, there were another two symbolic visions (not dreams) of Daniel and the Book of Revelation (a vision of the Apostle John) that had to be interpreted by angels.
There really was not much in the Bible about symbolic dreams. However, there were seventeen other dreams in the Bible that did not require interpretation. The dream was either straight forward and non-symbolic, or else the symbolism was instantly understood by the dreamer.
I had been taught that God speaks to believers through symbolic dreams, and that it often requires prophetic input to interpret them. I had accepted and believed that since before I knew how to spell 'prophesy.' I thought that dream interpretation was an important and significant portion of prophetic ministry. But when I went to the Bible and looked, I could not find support for that theory.
The prophetic community is struggling with dream interpretation -- if you give the same dream to two different prophets (from two different streams of prophecy), you will probably get two drastically different interpretations. There are a whole bunch of books out there to explain what various dream symbols mean, and those books don't agree with one another.
Maybe the reason that the prophetic community is struggling so much with dream interpretation is because that is not something we are supposed to be focusing on. Maybe it is not really a significant part of the prophetic. I will explain this more and in greater detail in subsequent lessons. But I wanted to throw the concept out in the first lesson so that you could begin to chew on it and prayerfully process it.