You may ask why God would use symbols and figures of speech to communicate with us. Why wouldn’t He just speak plainly?
The answer is not entirely simple, but basically God uses things you understand to explain things you don’t understand. He uses the physical realm to explain the supernatural spiritual realm.
To think that God does not continue to speak symbolically or metaphorically through dreams is to deny His nature throughout Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation. God uses symbols to reveal attributes and to cause you to apply your heart to understand. Did you know there are over 8,200 figures of speech used in Scripture? That is totally amazing to me! If we know that the Word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then whenever symbolic speech is used in Scripture, it is on purpose and it means we should stop and take notice and learn something.
The entire Hebrew culture celebrates and communicates through symbolic expression in their feasts and their traditions, and even every letter of their alphabet is a symbolic picture of something! I personally believe metaphors and symbolic ways of communicating are God’s preferred speech because we have to want to understand and we have to apply our hearts to understand. When we learn to think symbolically, we will discover all types of hidden treasures, not only in our dreams, but also in Scripture and in our everyday lives! You will begin to hear and see God communicating with you everywhere, every day when you begin to apply your heart to understand the meaning behind God’s symbolic love language.
God says to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and strength (see Deut. 6:5, 11:13, 13:3). How can we do that unless we apply our hearts fully to understand? When we have to gain an understanding of symbols or metaphors, it requires us to meditate and involve our minds, our wills, our experiences and our emotions—only then can we begin to understand what God is saying.
Dreams are often parables, allegories or even riddles that contain hidden treasure if we’re willing to search for it. The condition of our hearts directly affects our spiritual insight and understanding. Are you distracted or captivated by the gift God may be giving you in your dreams? It may reflect the condition of your heart.
Jesus spoke in parables to the unbelieving because He wanted them to have to apply their hearts. He says:
“Therefore I speak to them in parables: ‘Because they look, but do not see. And they listen, but they do not hear, neither do they understand.’ In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘By hearing, you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing, you will see and shall not perceive;for this people’s heart has grown dull. Their ears have become hard of hearing, and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and turn, and I should heal them'” (Matthew 13:13-15).
Jesus goes on to bless those who listen and apply themselves to understand what He is saying. Notice, too, that He explained what the parables meant to the disciples who asked (those who want to know). To be a disciple means to study and follow Jesus. When He speaks symbolically, it means there is hidden treasure to be discovered, and those who search it out will find reward! (See Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; Hebrews 11:6.)
E.W. Bullinger, who was a biblical scholar and theologian from England in the late 1800s, gives us the following for serious reflection in his book, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible:
Applied to words, a figure denotes some form which a word or sentence takes, different from its ordinary and natural form. This is always for the purpose of giving additional force, more life, intensified feeling and greater emphasis. Whereas today, “figurative language” is ignorantly spoken of as though it made less of the meaning, and deprived the words of their power and force. A passage of God’s Word is quoted; and it is met with the cry, “Oh, that is figurative”—implying that its meaning is weakened, or that it has quite a different meaning, or that it has no meaning at all.
But the very opposite is the case. For an unusual form (figura) is never used except to add force to the truth conveyed, emphasis to the statement of it, and depth to the meaning of it. When we apply this science then to God’s words and to divine truths, we see at once that no branch of Bible study can be more important, or offer greater promise of substantial reward
Bullinger goes on to say, referring to figures of speech, “no branch of Bible study can be more important: And yet we may truly say that there is no branch of it which has been so utterly neglected.”
God is speaking to you today and desiring for you to find hidden rewards. Will you seek Him with all your heart, or will you squander your riches? It is my prayer that you will consider the condition of the soil of your heart and value how God may be communicating with you in dreams and also in everything around you. Apply your heart to understand what He may be saying, and you will be rewarded above and beyond all you can ask or even possibly imagine (see Eph. 3:20; Heb. 11:6).
Teresa Ward, author of Gateway to Dreams (from which this article is excerpted), is the Founder of Above & Beyond and gatewaytodreams.com. She has documented and interpreted over 30,000 of her own dreams as well as thousands for others. Her goal is to help people connect with God and discover their spiritual destiny.