THE TALE OF TWO DREAMS
By Mitchel Plaisted
Growing up as the grandson of Pastors Alan & Dorothy Langstaff, I have had the opportunity to encounter a vast number of prophetic ministries over my mere twenty-seven years. I believe that prophetic ministry is needed in the body of Christ today. However, I also believe that much of the current prophetic ministry in the church suffers from a thorn that significantly cripples its effectiveness. Namely, this is the failure to clearly distinguish between what is from God and what is from the prophet, or other believers, interpreting the prophecy. To be clear, my heart here is not to tear down any minister or slander the prophetic. I desire to do what I can to strengthen the prophetic ministries in the Body of Christ and help the members of the body better integrate the prophetic into their walk with the Lord. Simply put, we need prophecy in the body of Christ. However, we must not exceed what is written to reference 1 Corinthians 4:6, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (NASB).
Before we examine some biblical examples of prophecy, let us remember there are four steps involved in properly handling prophecies:
- Revelation – Is the prophecy from the Lord?
- Interpretation – How is it to be interrupted?
- Application – How is it to be applied?
- Timing – When is it to happen?
Let us first look at two words from the Lord in the form of dreams. The first one involves Joseph in Genesis 41.
THE FIRST DREAM(S)
Pharaoh told Joseph the two dreams he had, and in turn, Joseph affirmed they were from God and provided the interpretation. Namely, there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine upon the land.
Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.” (Genesis 41:25-32, NASB).
Note that Joseph has an understanding of the timing of the prophecy in the dream: “God will quickly bring it about.” After this, Joseph begins to provide the application to the word, i.e., how Pharaoh should respond.
“Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.” Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants” (Genesis 41:32-37, NASB).
As Joseph provides the application to the word, he begins to go beyond what I believe God had revealed, without clearly distinguishing between his words and God’s. The application he suggested was to appoint a man to oversee the storing up of food, during the time of plenty, so that it could be used in the time of famine. Pharaoh responds by setting Joseph up as that man.
HOW THE APPLICATION WORKED OUT
How did his advice to Pharaoh work out? Well, it did prevent the land, as well as his family, from perishing when the years of famine came. It also resulted in him rising to a position of power, fulfilling the dreams God had given him when he was yet among his family. Joseph, however, did not merely use his position of power for good. In Genesis 47:15-19 we learn that he ended up being somewhat of a tyrant, as he was willing to take advantage of the famine to buy all the people of Egypt as slaves for Pharaoh.
It is interesting to note that once Joseph begins to go beyond the dream, the focus becomes on seeking out a wise man. Now Pharaoh appears to recognize the wisdom God had placed in Joseph and places Joseph in a position of power. However, I wonder how things might have turned out differently if, instead of setting himself up as an intermediary between the wisdom of God and Pharaoh, Joseph had called on Pharaoh to seek out God himself. God spoke to Pharaoh in the dreams, but there is no mention in scripture of Joseph calling the people of Egypt to turn away from the gods of Egypt and worship the one true God. This left his family in a land they would only escape through the midst of great violence and opposition from the Pharaoh.
I will note that it is quite clear from scripture that it was God’s plan for Joseph and his family to go down to Egypt and for Joseph to attain a position of power. However, just because something is God’s plan does not mean that all the human actions that fulfill His’ plan are perfect or moral. In other words, God can use our mistakes and imperfections as part of his plan. For example, Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave.
THE SECOND DREAM
The second dream is found in Daniel 4. In this passage, once again, a King has had a dream and needs interpretation. God used Daniel to provide the interpretation and once again provide some advice to the King. However, as we can see in verse twenty-seven, after telling the interpretation, Daniel begins his advice to the King with the phrase, “Therefore, O King, may my advice be pleasing to you” (Daniel 4:27, NASB). Daniel clearly distinguishes between his words and the words of God. In addition, his advice to the King was specifically targeted to facilitate his turning away from his sins and seeking righteousness. Instead of morphing the dream to fit what the King may have wanted to hear, Daniel clearly and truthfully provided the interpretation the Lord had given him and then gave the King good advice on how to respond.
This was done even though Daniel had been taken captive by this King. It would be understandable if Daniel desired to see the king fall or be punished for his sins. However, Daniel still provided the King a warning as opposed to merely condemning him for his sins. Now, it would appear that the King fails to heed the warning of Daniel. However, all the same, Daniel continued to faithfully and honestly serve each of the kings he was placed under.
I would note that when the people of Israel returned to their promised land from this captivity, they did so with the blessing of a later king. Yes, they faced some local opposition; however, having the King’s blessing was of much help. I believe that the way Daniel served the kings helped to lay the foundation for them, allowing for the return of his people to the promised land. Even if it did not directly cause it.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF PROPHECY
Now, I know that some will disagree with my take on Joseph’s interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream. Honestly, although it is how I read that passage, it is not a theological hill I would die on. However, even if we were to throw out that example, the fact remains that it is a great sin to try and put words in God’s mouth. One example of this would be found in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (NASB): “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
From this passage, we get quite a strong warning to false prophets. We should note that this passage is found in the Old Testament. I do not believe God desires for us to put false prophets to death today under the new covenant. However, this passage still speaks to how seriously God takes a prophet claiming to speak in His name. If we look at some of the calls in the New Testament for leaders to be held to a higher standard (James 3:1 & 1 Timothy 3) those who operate as prophets in the church should take heed, and show the utmost respect for the ‘Name of the Lord.’
THE OFFICE OF PROPHET
There is a difference between one who holds the office of prophet (Ephesians 4:11) and one who is simply a believer and, therefore, called to seek that they would prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1). Leaders are held to a higher standard in the church. Believers should be careful not to let fear of misspeaking stop them from obeying scripture and earnestly seeking spiritual gifts, especially prophesy. Prophesy is needed in the church today. Every believer should be seeking to prophesy. Yes, with respect and reverence for our Lord and King, but also joy, for He is our Bridegroom, as well.
The office of prophet, however, is not for every believer but rather a specific ‘office’ with a specific purpose in the body. I wish that when the church required guidance from the Lord, the prophetic ministries would speak with a clear and unified voice that was so powerful that there would be no doubt that we should heed it, but alas, it is not so.
Currently, much of the church disregards the gifts as not for today or from the devil. Perhaps this is at least in part because some in the church have failed to treat offices like that of the prophet with the seriousness and respect that we should. Perhaps this is not because all the prophets we have today are false, but rather that, as a church, we often go beyond what God is saying. Sometimes it may be from the mouth of the prophet that things get added. But often, it may happen as the church repeats the prophecy.
So often, I hear believers trying to figure out what prophecies say, what will happen, or figure out how multiple prophecies fit together. In the vast majority of cases, I believe the heart is good, and the intent is to seek God’s will. However, often the result is people believing things that are beyond what God actually said. For example, back in 2020, I heard a young believer say, ‘God has said through his prophets that Trump will win, and God will not go back on his word so Trump has to win.’ Now the legitimacy of the election aside, what does that kind of thinking do to our youth or unbelievers who hear it? Today they turn on the TV to see Biden in the oval office and wonder if God is real or if they can trust anything He says.
This does not mean that every prophecy regarding Trump was false. However, I have encountered many who at least implied that God had said that Trump would currently be in the White House right now. Regardless of who you think won the election, on that account, God’s words were at least misrepresented by some believers. I do not mean for this to be a political article. I am merely using the 2020 election as an example, as it is something that I observed in the last few years. We need to be careful not to try to make the words of God fit our preconceived notions. Rather, we should base our reality on the words of the Great I Am. This is primarily true of the written word, but all the same, the office of prophet should be a powerful force in our Christian walk. However, I fear we have, at times, relegated it to mere entertainment.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As ministers, we should:
- Strive to clearly speak what we hear from God.
- Clearly separate our interpretations from the ‘Word of the Lord.’
- Admit when we are wrong.
Praise the Lord that Jesus came and died for our sins so that we might be saved, and in so doing, fulfilled the law and established the New Covenant. Under this covenant, there is much more freedom, and I do not believe that we should remove a prophet when they make mistakes, as long they are willing to own up to them. If we want to be taken seriously, we must take the responsibility God has given us seriously, even if that results in lower attendance at our meetings. We have to put the integrity of the Word of the Lord first.
As believers, we should stop trying to figure everything out or find a prophecy that might tickle our ears. Some things will be revealed in due time, and some things are just not for us to know in our lifetimes. In fact, there are even things not even Jesus knows (Matthew 24:36). Listening to prophecy can be enjoyable and uplifting. However, we can not let it consume us. We should instead be consumed with fulfilling the great commission. Yes, prophecy has a big role to play in that, but as is true with all gifts, we need to make sure we never start to worship the gifts as opposed to the Gift Giver. Furthermore, we need to follow Him, not the gifts. Do not go running around looking for God to speak to you through a prophet without taking time to carry out what God has called you to do.
A FINAL NOTE
Finally, please understand that my goal is not to destroy the prophetic but rather to make it stronger and more powerful. I long for the day when there will be prophets who God will use so powerfully that the majority of the church will heed their words. My goal here is merely to help us along to way to that goal. To Christ be the glory.
Scripture quotations: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.