Discerning God’s Dreams: What Joseph Teaches Us About Wisdom and Purpose
Dreams are fascinating. We’ve all had them—vivid nocturnal adventures that feel intensely real in the moment. But when morning comes, our dreams vanish like mist.
In our modern scientific society, most people dismiss dreams as meaningless subconscious nonsense. Yet dreams continue to captivate our imaginations. There’s an air of mystery and otherworldliness around them.
What are we to make of dreams from a Christian perspective? Can God speak through dreams today like He did in biblical times? How should we balance divine dreams with wisdom and discernment? And what do dreams reveal about our purpose?
These are some of the questions pastor Kyle Cunningham dives into as he continues his series on Genesis. He focuses on the iconic dreamer of the Bible—Joseph. As Kyle will demonstrate, Joseph’s journey shows us a lot about correctly handling God-given dreams.
Let’s explore this fascinating sermon and glean lessons for wisely discerning God’s purposes in our lives.
Decoding Dreams: Our Modern Confusion
Kyle begins by noting the saturation of dreams in our culture—from research papers and TED talks to books on dream interpretation and spirituality. But modern society lacks consensus on what dreams mean or where they come from.
Science says dreams are our brain’s way of processing memories and information. Psychology suggests dreams express hidden desires or subconscious conflicts. New age thinking often emphasizes a mystical inner journey unlocked through dreams.
With so many competing voices, Christians may feel unclear on what Scripture says about dreams. Are they divine revelations or just neural noise? Kyle acknowledges we need biblical clarity.
Dreams in the Bible: God Speaks Through Them
To cut through the confusion, Kyle highlights how prominently dreams feature in the Genesis story:
- There are over 65 references to dreams in the Old Testament alone.
- Thirty-four of those references appear in Genesis.
- Dreams are a primary way God communicates with people throughout Scripture.
From Abraham to Jacob, Genesis shows dreams providing insight, direction, and revelation at pivotal junctures. Based on this pattern, Kyle suggests the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung properly recognized dreams as an important means of God speaking.
Of course, today we have the full written Word unlike biblical characters. Even so, Kyle argues we shouldn’t dismiss God using dreams in supplemental ways.
Can God Speak Through Dreams Today?
Kyle gives three main reasons to believe God can still speak through dreams:
- The Prophet Joel Foretold It
In Joel 2, Joel prophesies God will “pour out” His Spirit in the last days leading both young and old to experience dreams and visions. Since this was cited at Pentecost, Kyle reasons we should expect this gift of the Spirit to continue today.
- Consistent Missionary Accounts
Contemporary reports from missionaries consistently describe God giving dreams and visions to people—especially Muslims—to draw them to faith in Jesus. Kyle shares vivid stories from the Middle East and Northern Africa of Jesus appearing in dreams and directing people to local churches.
- The Holy Spirit Remains At Work
Though some theologies argue certain gifts ceased with the apostolic era, Kyle asserts the Holy Spirit clearly remains active in transforming lives. Therefore, we should not restrict how God chooses to speak through His Spirit.
At the same time, Kyle qualifies that Scripture remains the ultimate authority over any dreams. Most dreams still originate from our subconscious rather than divine revelation. But the Spirit can use dreams sovereignly in people’s lives.
Joseph’s Dreams: Cautionary Lessons in Discernment
With this biblical foundation on dreams established, Kyle turns to the life of Joseph recounted in Genesis 37.
Joseph’s Story: Dreams Ignite Jealousy As the beloved son of Jacob, Joseph received two prophetic dreams from God as a teenager which signified his family would one day bow down to him. But when Joseph eagerly relayed these dreams to his parents and brothers, they resented him deeply.
Soon after, Joseph’s unsuspecting brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. The dreams proved accurate, but only after years of pain and separation.
Lesson 1: Divine Dreams Require Discernment
Kyle notes Joseph lacked discernment and wisdom in how he shared his dreams. This inflamed family tensions and created an opening for calamity, despite the dreams being God-ordained. Joseph failed to consider his situation and the possible reactions.
Proverbs tells us repeatedly to pursue wisdom, discretion, and humility. Joseph shows us divine inspiration alone is not enough. We must exercise maturity and judgment in how we handle revelations from God.
Lesson 2: Don’t Live Like It’s All About You
Sadly, Joseph seemed to relish his dreams as confirmation of his status over his brothers. When his father surprisingly sends him to check on them soon after, Joseph eagerly goes, seemingly expecting the dreams to be fulfilled immediately.
In contrast, Mary quietly treasured the news of her miraculous pregnancy and purpose in her heart. She knew it wasn’t about exalting herself.
Kyle suggests Joseph was more concerned with his promotion than God’s purposes. This self-centeredness set Joseph up for hardship. We too will suffer if we make God’s call about us rather than serving Him.
Lesson 3: God’s Dreams Matter Most
Joseph thought the dreams were about him lording over his family. But God’s vision was much bigger—to create the nation of Israel in Egypt from which the Messiah would come to save the world.
Joseph’s mistakes still furthered God’s sovereign plans, though the road was painful. In the end, Joseph is reconciled to his brothers and helps preserve God’s people.
Unfortunately, many preachers portray Joseph’s story as encouragement to envision bigger dreams for yourself. But Kyle argues the gospel flips this thinking. Our dreams should be about joining Jesus’ grand mission of redemption, not pursuing our kingdom.
Cultivating Wisdom for Discerning Dreams
In closing, Kyle challenges us to grow in wisdom and humility like Joseph eventually did. This starts with fearing the Lord, recognizing our need for instruction, and seeking wisdom from God through prayer and Scripture.
It also requires humbly learning from those wiser and older, rather than relying on our own limited experience and insights. Youth need the seasoning of age.
Most importantly, we must ensure our dreams align with God’s purposes rather than self-glorification. Joseph’s journey reminds us that handling revelations and callings wisely requires maturity and discernment.
By looking to Christ rather than ourselves, we can partner with God’s dreams rather than being tripped up by our own.