answers to prayer are long in coming or not what we had expected, we
can begin to lose hope and even doubt that God will answer our prayers.
To help us through, God sometimes encourages us by dreams or visions.
He did this for me and my husband shortly after I gave
birth to a son with a facial birth defect. A woman who lived 45 miles
from our home had a vision of a baby with socks on his hands and feet.
She began to pray for the baby even though she did not understand the
Later that week we were dedicating our son to the Lord
during a Friday night service. Our son’s birth defect was so sensitive
that we had to keep socks on his hands to keep him from harming himself.
When our son was held up during the dedication, the woman, who was
visiting that night, recognized that he was the baby in her vision.
God used the vision to inspire this woman to organize
prayer for my son during his early days of infancy and corrective
surgery. The vision and prayers blessed us with fresh encouragement and
hope during a very traumatic season in our lives.
However, our experience was not an unusual one. There are
many examples in the Scriptures of God’s bringing comfort and hope
through visions and dreams.
Abraham was a wealthy man to whom God gave great promises.
He owned cattle, silver and gold, but he had no son to inherit his
wealth, for his wife was barren. The Lord appeared to Abraham in a
vision and promised him an heir (see Gen. 15:4).
God also said that his descendants would be as many as the
stars in the sky. Abraham believed God, and the Lord credited it to him
as righteousness (vv. 5-6).
After God spoke to him, Abraham fell into a deep sleep,
and God gave him a prophetic promise through a dream. The Lord showed
him his descendants would be enslaved in cruel bondage in Egypt for 400
years. Then the Lord would deliver them, and they would come out of
Egypt with great possessions and return to the land He had promised to
Abraham (vv. 12-16).
The birth and destiny of an entire nation was revealed in
this dream. Abraham had longed for an heir, and God gave him a promise
far beyond his expectations.
Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, received great promises from
God, also, not only for himself but also for his descendants. When he
was a young man, Jacob had stolen his elder brother Esau’s birthright
and obtained the blessings normally given to the firstborn. Esau sought
to kill Jacob for his deceit, so Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, sent him away
to seek a wife in the land of her brother Laban (see Gen. 28).
On the way, Jacob stopped for the night, and as he slept,
he dreamed: “And behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top
reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and
descending on it.
“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the
Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which
you lie I will give to you and your descendants’” (vv. 12-13).
The Lord assured Jacob that He would be with him wherever
he went and that He would bring Jacob back to the land He had promised
to him (v. 15).
Two wives and 11 sons later, God spoke to Jacob again in a
dream (see Gen. 31:10-13). Jacob had been working for his
father-in-law, Laban, who continually cheated him. In the dream, God
revealed a plan for dividing the cattle of Laban’s flocks fairly and
giving Jacob his rightful portion.
This is the first recorded instance of God’s imparting
sound business strategy through a dream. God also used this dream to
tell Jacob to take his wives, his children and his flocks and return to
the land of his father.
The Lord let Laban deal deceitfully with Jacob. God was
purging Jacob. It was a long, arduous process, but through this process
the promise was fulfilled and Jacob became Israel, meaning “prince with
God” (Gen. 32:28).
Dreams often challenge us to change just as Jacob was
challenged to change. God had not addressed Jacob’s character flaws in
his dreams, but that did not mean that God approved of all that happened
in Jacob’s life.
Similarly, when we receive a word from the Lord, whether
through a prophecy, a dream or a vision, we must know that the outcome
will depend on our obedient cooperation with God’s maturing and purging
work in our lives.
Joseph was a young man of 17 when he had two dreams that
seemed to bring him nothing but trouble. He was Jacob’s favorite son,
which made his 10 older brothers intensely jealous.
The strife in Jacob’s household was exacerbated when young
Joseph had two dreams—one in which his brother’s sheaves bowed down to
his sheaf, and the other in which the sun, the moon and 11 stars bowed
down to him. Joseph shared these dreams with his brothers and, perhaps
understandably, his brothers hated him all the more. Even his father
rebuked him, although he also kept in mind what Joseph had said (see
Perhaps Joseph was unwise to share these dreams with his
jealous siblings. I believe he shared them not because he was prideful
but because he had more zeal than wisdom. Whatever the reason, the
outcome was that his outraged brothers sold him into slavery.