“It shall be even as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.” – Isaiah 29:8
Dreams are mentioned over a hundred times in the Word. Some have a good and some an evil meaning. In the dreams of Jacob as he rested by night at Bethel, of Joseph as he saw the sheaves of his brothers bowing down to his sheaf, and of Joseph the husband of Mary when he was warned to take the young child into Egypt there is a representation and instruction in Divine things. In the Golden Age the Lord taught men by means of dreams, and we may with some reason conjecture that man would be so taught today were it not for his hereditary tendencies to evil. However, occasionally we hear of people who have had instructive dreams. In sleep much of man’s own is quiescent, for in sleep we pass from our natural and worldly consciousness and surrender ourselves to the Lord, that His inflowing life may repair and heal. Were man living in his true order of creation, interposing little or nothing to distort and obscure the inflowing life, dreams would doubtless be a powerful source of enlightenment, instruction, and inspiration. Unfortunately this avenue man has for the most part closed.
But there is another kind of dream which does not come from the Lord. We are all familiar with the words, “I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls, with vassals and serfs at my side.” There are such dreams, begotten of idle fancy, and we recall the Divine command given through Moses, “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams… And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death.” And this, be it noted, is “because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God… to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in.” Here manifestly the dream is false; and it is called a dream because of its unreality and obscurity, because to hear it implies that the spiritual man is asleep and heedless of the Divine teaching he has received from the Word. The dreamer of these dreams is the man who is in falsity, and such men live in a dream world even when they are physically awake. Spiritually speaking, whenever men are not in the truth and do not look to the Lord for counsel and the way of life, they are in a dream, living among unrealities, beguiled by fantasies, and misled by appearances.
We should keep in mind, however, the teaching that there are two general kinds of falsity: falsity from ignorance, and falsity from evil. Man may have little control over the falsity from ignorance. This is the falsity that comes from a lack of correct teaching in childhood, a lack of opportunity for learning. Those born of heathen parents, those brought up in the forests of Africa or in the wilds of any country may not have the means of knowing their Savior and Redeemer. The Lord’s merciful providence is over all such. Because the truth is not known, it cannot be profaned. Because it is not known, it cannot be willfully opposed. Because it is not known, it cannot be assailed by the evil will of man and twisted and deformed into what is false. “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness.” The falsity from ignorance is not condemnatory. It is not the falsity of the dreamer of dreams who turns men from the way of the Divine commandment.
The falsity which condemns, the falsity into which, by the very nature of our birth into hereditary evils, all of us fall in varying measure, is the falsity which springs from evil, For the mind of man is made up of will and understanding. And until the new will is implanted by the Lord, the will of each of us is wholly evil and incapable of purification. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
It should be noted that man is not born into hereditary falsity in the same way in which he is born into hereditary evil. For he is born into no knowledge whatever, either true or false. But as soon as he begins to hear the Word of the Lord and to come into some knowledge of the Divine law, so soon does the evil will apply itself to distort that truth and to nullify it in the interests of the loves of self and the world. In this way does the evil of the unregenerate will give rise to the falsity of evil. For example, if the Divine truth teaches that the Lord is pure mercy, the will may distort that truth to imply unconditional mercy, that the Lord will forgive all sin regardless of what man does. This is even a very common teaching in the churches today. So every truth we learn can be made false.
The truth that determines our spiritual state is not mere knowledge. The real answers we give to our catechism are not those we speak from memory, but those which we receive in the heart and carry out in life. The evil will seeks to distort every truth and to make it an excuse for self-indulgence. This is what the Lord meant when He declared to His taunting questioners, “Ye are of your father the devil.” For they had falsified the truths of the Word by their evil will. That evil will was the father of their perversions of the Word.
The evil will cannot lay hold of truth and keep it true. It loves darkness rather than light. Falsity is its truth, even as evil is its good. If it continues unrestrained, man at length loses the power to see a truth, still less the good it teaches. He lives in a world of unreality, a dream world. He is dreaming as if he were eating. What he believes to be good is really not so. His ideas of how good is to be attained are his dreaming as if he were drinking. His evil has blinded him, and he gropes in an unreal world of darkness. He has called evil good and good evil, put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
We live in the world, and we help make the world. Mankind has not become regenerate since the Lord’s Second Advent. Wars such as the world has recently passed through are not the result of the blameless falsity of ignorance. The teacher of the world today is the dreamer of dreams pictured in our text. Mankind is dreaming as if it were eating, dreaming as if it were drinking. And in its dream it does both eat and drink. It satisfies its appetite for what it believes is good and true and what it believes will bring happiness.
There is a great deal of humanitarian effort and achievement, but a marked lack of any spiritual reform. The chief idea in most minds seems to be to find the means of increasing wealth and pleasure and all that the world can offer. The vast agendas with which the world councils are today confronted present no difficulties which mutual good will could not solve. A third world war may or may not be imminent. Self-love and the love of the world are as cunning as they are malignant, and self-love sees in a dream. Self-love sees its destruction in human freedom and enlightenment and in true charity toward the neighbor. And if war is seen to be folly and becomes outlawed by the common sense of mankind, self-love will not yield. It will adopt other tactics; it will seek to destroy truth by more subtle means than by war – means that are observable in the policies of some nations today.
The chapter from which our text is taken begins: “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt!” The word Ariel means “lion of God.” The lion is the symbol of power. The Lord made His Second Coming because men had lost Divine truth with its power. Whenever this condition exists, man lives in a dream world. If ever he does awaken, he sees that what he has eaten and drunk has left his soul faint and empty. The things of this world fail to satisfy. Of those who do not awaken from their dream in time to change it is written: “So shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.”