God-given Dreams: A Brief Reflection on the Narrative of Joseph in Genesis 37

By: Antipas Harris
Thursday, May 20th, 2010

As I reflect on a biblical passage that is dear to me– Genesis 37, I am interested in the role that “dreams” play in the narrative of Joseph. What could this story imply or teach us regarding dreams?

It is common in the Hebrew Bible that God gives a dream and the meaning of the dream proves true in lived reality. Certainly, all of our nocturnal dreams today do not bear the same validity as the ones that we see in scripture. Fantasies, chocolate, Bad pizza and horror movies are to blame for some of the crazy dreams we have– good dreams and bad ones. I have had dreams– day dreams and nocturnal dreams– that I wish would come to past. Also, as with most people, I have dreams that I am glad to awake from. For example, the other night I dreamt that I lost my voice completely. In the dream I was working my mouth and trying to make a sound but could not. When I woke-up, I was so happy that it was only a dream! That nocturnal dream was the most miserable one that I have had in a while. I pray that that was one of those dreams resulting from a deep rooted fear, bad food or something.

Yet, Genesis 37 teaches us that God does deal in dreams and all dreams– whether day-dreams or nocturnal dreams– are not a result of what we ate, human fears, or passionate fantasies. While I can not articulate clearly a discernment between the dreams that God gives and the ones that seem to have little or no meaning, I am convinced that God still gives dreams and God’s dreams do come to pass.

Divine dreams are not merely ideas dangling in the periphery of the corridors of our imaginations. Rather, these dreams are revelations of our “divine purpose-by-design” or a message from God. Dreams could be an avenue through which God shares God’s ideas with us.

These God-given dreams are sometimes hard to understand. If we take seriously Joseph’s dream in the Genesis passage for its implications on God-given dreams, we notice that God’s dreams seem too wonderful for our current situations. God’s dreams often leave us shaking in our knees. We think, “Where in the world does this come from?” And, “How in the world could this be true?”

But God’s dreams are not about where we are now. God’s dreams are about where God intends for us to go or what will happen despite of where we are. Again, Joseph’s story teaches us that God does not just look at who we are but God looks at who we were born to become!

It is important to note in Joseph’s story that God’s dreams for for him provoke his brothers to jealousy. Could this mean that God’s dreams for us might provoke others to jealousy as well? Joseph’s brothers become perturbed and participate in conspiracy to castigate Joseph. Does this explain why when people do not understand God’s dreams for us sometimes become envious, criticize and consign our dreams to the grave?

Let us be encouraged that when God gives a dream, God is able to bring the dream to past. Let God work the dream into reality as we simply obey God. The narrative of Joseph teaches us that whatever we do, let us hold on to our relationship with God; hold on to our godly character and hold on to the God-given dream. Problems will come. Strange predicaments will occur. Pain will interfere. And the pit might be our dwelling place for s season. But a pastor friend put it this way, “Don’t let these P’s get us down. These P’s serve as a process to get to our divine promise.”

Our God-given dreams shall surely come to pass!


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Antipas Harris
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5 Responses to “God-given Dreams: A Brief Reflection on the Narrative of Joseph in Genesis 37”

  1. Samuel Johnson says:

    Well said Dr. Harris. Dreams can be seen as the language in which God chooses to communicate to his people. Many times in scripture He used dreams to speak to his leaders and chosen vessels. Dreams are so important to the work of God that Joel prophecied of a time when men will dreams dreams and see visions. With that said, If live out the dream God has given for your life you will encounter all of the P’s. But when you know that the dream is from God, it is the only path you can take. Dr. Martin Luther King said that a man who is not willing to die for anything is not fit to live. You must live by it as if there are no other options. I believe that until you have a dream you have yet to live.

  2. Fay Head says:

    The observations that the Lord has given you about His dreams are quite insightful. As I was reading your article, the Lord kept reminding me of what we are often taught regarding prophesies or healings that are spoken over us by the Lord’s modern day prophets. We still have our God-given responsibility to agree with the Lord’s Words to us, reach out, and appropriate the Words of prophesy or healing that are spoken over us. Likewise, the godly dreams the Lord gives us require our personal acquiescence and agreement with the Lord that He is, in fact, able to do exceedingly and abundantly in our lives–far more than we could ever ask or think according to His power that works within us (Eph 3:20- generously paraphrased). All too often the Lord’s dreams and plans of what He wants to accomplish in and through us seem so fantastic that they could never come to pass. However, with our Lord, all things are possible for Him through whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

    • Fay, thank you for your comment. Thank you for reading my blog-post. Please be encouraged to hold on to the dreams that God gives to you! Blessings

  3. Andrea Dankone-Barna says:

    These are just some practical things about dreams that I have learnt in my walk with the Holy Spirit. Maybe they can help others too…

    Dreams or night visions help us clarify our dreams for our lives, for our destiny. We long to see the bigger picture, all, that is written in the book of our life (Psalm 139) by the One who has created us, who knows us more intimately than anyone else, including our own selves. We are all called to greatness plainly because our Father is Great and we have been born of His seed.

    Dreams of the night are one way how God speaks to us. “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though people do not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on mortals, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens their ears, “ – says the scripture in Job 33:14-16. As God speaks to us in His many-faceted ways we gather all the pieces and put them together with the help of the Holy Spirit so that we could see that bigger picture of our life, calling or whatever topic we are inquiring of, discussing with Him.

    I know the word, imagination, has a negative taste for many. We were created with the faculty of imagination so it cannot be originally bad. I see the imagination as a “picture making faculty” of the mind. It works like a projector. Unless one puts something in it the projector cannot produce pictures on the screen on its own. The imagination itself is neither good nor bad. We can also say, that it will project on the screen of our mind only what we put into it. If my eye-gates behold horror movies, unclean scenes and things then those are the pictures my imagination will constantly produce. (Gal 6:7-8) When we are born again the Lord is more than willing to cleanse our imagination from the old, unclean images and fill it with His visions and dreams.

    As spiritual beings we have spiritual senses: we can hear, see, feel, taste, smell (Hebrews 5:14, Psalm 34:8, Revelation 1:10 etc.) “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) Just as we have to develop a good hearing in the spiritual realm, we also have to have a clear vision. Clear or good mean that I possess the ability to discern and judge the voices I hear or the pictures/”movies” I see.

    When we are sleeping the guard of our mind is down, so we can get in touch with the invisible realm more easily. As someone who for many years has been recording “night visions” I have learnt some helpful lessons. Dreams, visions, just as voices, can come from three different sources: God, my own soul, or the demonic realm. There are some simple tools to help us discern right after we wake up. Was the dream colorful or black and white? (Demonic dreams don’t carry colors.) What kind of emotions did I encounter in the dream? Fear, terror, anger, or any other kind of negative emotion, are either from the soul or from the enemy (Jam 1:17).

    Dreams from God are often very symbolic (Joseph, Daniel). In the process of interpretation I use the scriptures, former dreams and their interpretations, my “personal dream dictionary,” my natural understanding of things, situations etc., and of course common sense as reference points. Symbols and their understanding are very important especially if someone is an intercessor.

    God dreams also can be real third heaven encounters. (Jacob with the ladder. Mary’s husband’s, Joseph’s angel dreams.) My experience is that if this is the case a very strong Presence of God fills me and the whole room even after waking up.

    Soul dreams help us discern our own soul. They reflect our deepest struggles, problems. With the help of these soul dreams God can put His finger on certain issues in us that He would like to deal with, that we need to get healed or delivered of. For example if I dream with a person I know and I am overwhelmed with negative emotions toward him or her then I have to let the Holy Spirit deal with those emotions. If I let Him do this the day will come when I will have a dream with or meet in real life this person and I will discover that all those negative emotions are gone!

    Demonic dreams have the purpose to scare, threaten, harass, tempt, plant lies in our ears and hearts. My first reaction is to say NO to any of these threats/lies and turn my mind, eyes unto the Lord and His workings, Words, promises. But there are two things that I also pay attention to after a negative dream.

    The first one is the “symbolic manifestation” of the enemy, if there was any. Like an octopus, a spider, a flying pig :-) (unclean animals of the Old Testament represent something negative also in our dreams.), Nazi soldiers, Russian communists, African cannibalistic tribe people, cancer. Just to name a few based on my own experiences. These symbols represent sins, demonic spirits and even powers and principalities (Eph 6:12). Recognizing those helps us understand what exactly we are dealing with, what level of spiritual warfare we are involved in.

    The second thing I pay attention to is my reactions, my responses, feelings. Do I fall into the temptation or am I willing to resist? Do I just try to run away; am I completely helpless or do I take a stand and fight? These again help me discern my own soul.

    Nevertheless these demonic dreams have usually very negative effects on us. We feel “slimed,” dirty, scared after them. Before I fall asleep I try to pray and cover my night time, my whole being with the Blood of the Lamb. I ask for protection from demonic dreams and attacks and I ask the Lord to speak to me in dreams. I feel the Lord would be ready to speak to us more often in dreams and visions if we really expected Him to do it. I also try to record my dreams as quickly as possible because we do tend to forget them as we go along our days.

    • Andrea, thank you for reading my blog-post. You are correct. There are many spirits in the world. And As Dale Coulter speaks of a discerning spirit, we need to exercise a discerning spirit to know the dreams from God for us.

      May the Lord bless you with dreams and more dreams!

      Dr. A