Five Dreams


Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, I belong to you. 

Matthew 2:12 (NIV)

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.


Five times—in the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel—we see the words, “in a dream.” Let’s remember them.

  1. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (1:20)
  2. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, (2:12)
  3. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (2:13)
  4. After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (2:19–20)
  5. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, (2:22)

Earlier in my Bible reading life I would quickly make the leap to wanting to apply this text to my own life, asking if God wanted to speak to me in a dream. It’s not a bad question. The better approach is to kneel down in front of the massive canvas of this story and ask questions like these:

Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, would you open the eyes of my heart to see more deeply into your mind and heart, your ways and will, your intimate interventions into the affairs of the world?

Here’s the epiphany breaking forth in my beholding. I think growing up I always saw the unfolding story of God in the Bible as happening at center stage of world events with lots of lights and fanfare; kind of like those spotlights they swirl around in the sky outside of a big movie premiere or otherwise spectacular event. Nothing could be further from the reality. These Bible events, though they are massive in their importance, are happening in very small, hidden, and even secret ways.

An ordinary unknown teenage girl in a small town becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Nobody knew anything about it. Her fiance prepares to divorce her with dignity and “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” No one had any idea of it. A small band of obscure astrologers quietly walk a thousand miles from Babylon to Bethlehem following a star. No-one was paying a lick of attention to them. These stories were not news worthy. God-stories rarely, if ever, are at the time. Interestingly enough, they become a permanent feature of the never forgotten news-cycle of eternity. Meanwhile, everything we thought was news at the time turns out to be nothing much worth remembering. 

The big story of God mostly unfolds through many small and seemingly unimportant stories of very ordinary people who became awakened in their generation and thereby agents of awakening. The other thing I’m perceiving this time through is the responsiveness of these witnesses to these interventions of God in through dreams. Watch this:

  1. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (1:24)
  2. they returned to their country by another route. (2:12)
  3. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, (2:14)
  4. So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. (2:20)
  5. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. (2:22–23)

There are only two kingdoms—the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The former is almost constantly collapsing under the weight of its own self-important emptiness. The latter is ever rising, slowly, often imperceptibly, way off to the side of the apparent main events of the day. The kingdom of Jesus is ever riding on the rails of the obedient, obscure, unknown sons and daughters of the King. 

One more bit: These happenings in Bible times were truly exceptional events. Now, in the days between the great awakenings—the first and second comings of Jesus—they are everyday occurrences. The Spirit is moving like a mighty river, bringing new life to dead places. The kingdom of Jesus is breaking forth in all sorts of surprising and unexpected ways. All it takes is the simple obedience of someone like you. 


Our Father, we keep praying that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know you better, that I might fully awaken to become the person you imagined when you fashioned my inmost being and that I might rise up into the real life for which you created me. Forgetting what is past, I press on toward this high calling. But for today, let me find myself next to Joseph, and those magi, pondering the risks and the rewards of simple obedience to what you are saying and doing in my midst. Come Holy Spirit, I am ready to move with you. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.


Are you realizing just how obscure and way off the trail these Bible stories were as they were unfolding? Are you seeing how it’s the same today? How we don’t make history by trying to be somebody and do great things for God but by staying awake and practicing simple obedience?   


“Shine, Jesus, Shine” hymn 217  in our Seedbed hymnal Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.  

P.S.  We are gearing up to start our annual Pastors’ Fellowship Retreat this Thursday. If you are in some form of vocational ministry, please join us. It’s called MEND and you can find all the information here

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Today’s Wake-up call reminds me that there is a cosmic battle behind the physical curtain of the world in progress, the battle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. My hope is founded on the the fact that we know the final outcome of this battle revealed to us in the last book of scriptures. In the meantime, I pray that my spiritual eyes be opened so that I, like Elisha’s servant,can see that “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)

  2. I woke up with an answer to your prayer on my heart before I came to your post.

    “Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, would you open the eyes of my heart to see more deeply into your mind and heart, your ways and will, your intimate interventions into the affairs of the world?”

    My waking up words this morning: Spirit-given and Spirit-taught words are much more common than people think because they’re often mistaken for mere human thoughts. As a short paragraph or phrase the Bible calls them either a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom. In longer sections they are called prophecy. The Bible says that Christ-followers “can all prophesy.” It quotes God as saying, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” One reason that prophecy, words of knowledge, and words of wisdom appear rare is that Christians have been trained not to notice them and/or to quench the Spirit and shut them down. Spirit-given (Mt. 10:19) and Spirit-taught (1 Cor. 2:13) words are powerful and burn in the heart of those who notice them.

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