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At a recent book fair, I spent £1.50 on a volume entitled Speeches that changed the World. You can imagine many of those selected. Churchill’s “blood sweat and tears”, Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”, Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream”. This last set me thinking about dreams.
Dreams and those who interpret them have always been considered Important. In Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, Joseph finds himself in prison with Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker. Each of them had a dream and the cupbearer asked Joseph to interpret his. Joseph took an optimistic view of the dream which featured a vine with three branches, grapes pressed into a cup and the cup put into Pharaoh’s hand. He told the cupbearer that he could expect to be reinstated. The baker, encouraged by Joseph’s positive interpretation of the cup bearer’s story asked for Joseph’s view of his dream in which he carried three cake baskets on his head. The top one had cakes for Pharaoh and the local birds were pecking them. The interpretation was not so positive. Joseph told the baker that far from being reinstated he could expect to be hanged. Both interpretations turned out to be correct.
Another Old Testament interpreter of dreams was Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar introduced a new twist by asking his wise men to interpret his dream without him telling them the subject. He reckoned that if they were genuine wise men they would know what he had dreamed without him having to tell them. They protested but the king was not moved. He sentenced them all to death. Daniel, however, did what the wise men could not. He told the king that he had dreamed about a statue with a golden head, silver body and feet of clay. The king was so impressed that he fell to his knees and promptly promoted Daniel.
Most Old Testament examples of dreams are prophetic in the sense of predicting what is going to happen. In the New Testament, they are often warnings. So, Joseph was warned of Mary’s pregnancy. The wise men were warned to avoid Herod; and Joseph, Mary and Jesus were warned to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s wrath.
Martin Luther King’s dream did not fit either of these categories. It was not about some future event or a specific warning. It was about an idea, a Utopia, a kingdom of God in which black and white children would play and grow up together, racism would be a thing of the past and freedom would ring from every corner of the land.
What is your dream?