Acts 2 and Dreaming Dreams
Joel 2:28-29 spoke of a day when Israel would be purged of people bent on the evil of deserting God; a day when the Spirit of God would be poured out not only on kings and prophets and exceptional leaders—but on “all flesh”. It’s likely that Joel didn’t have all nations in mind when he said “all flesh” (on the other hand, it’s maybe just as likely that he did). The immediate context speaks of the various strata in Jewish society rather than different nations; sons and daughters, young men, old men, servants, male and female—all would share in the lavish outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
One of the results and part of the proof that God had indeed opened the new age and had made the Spirit available was the prophetic word, the dreaming of dreams and visions seen that would be experienced by all levels of the community. It’s clear enough that Peter (Acts 2:16-18, 37-39) would take Joel’s promise to apply to Gentiles as well though it isn’t clear that he thought they could share in it apart from Torah observance. Click here for a little more on that.
What kind of dreams and visions would these be? That’s a good question but it isn’t the kind of thing Joel or Peter has any interest in. The two prophets are more concerned with God’s fulfilment of his promises and they leave the issue of “what kind of dreams are they?” untreated.
Were they predictive dreams and visions; the kind the Magi got when warned against Herod? Were they prophetic visions; the kind Ezekiel and others received from the Lord? Or visions of instruction; the kind Peter and Cornelius got in Acts 10? Why not? Were they the kind that comes as a result of “ordinary” reflection on the Lord and his word; the kind we see and dream when we think to ourselves, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful if and when…”? Why not? God can lead us to dream and see things that don’t have the marvel of prediction in them though they are marvellous and God-generated. [You’ve never experienced something like Martin Luther King’s dream?] Whatever is honourable and good and fine in all our imagining and wishing and labouring is of God! [Not all that we dream and wish and labour for is honourable and fine and good.]
However we construe the nature of the dreams and visions Joel’s interest is in the radical change that such dreams were to herald. They would be the work of the Spirit and they would be one of the markers that God has delivered his purged people and that the pain and loss of the past was for the past! When God revealed himself things would be different.
And were they different? Okay, so now young men and women dreamed dreams and saw visions, but how did that differ from Joel’s day; was he not seeing visions and dreaming dreams?
Is that what the promise has come to; words and dreams and visions? Where’s the power? Where are the deeds? Talk and imaginings are fine but is that what comes after the long wait? More talk about “one of these days”? More speech like, “I have a dream”?
When righteous people wrestle with entrenched evil and powerful vested interests, are we to say, “One of these days…?” When desperate people fight awful battles against clinging sin that threatens to spill their souls like blood in the streets are we to speak of dreams and visions?
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.