Blessing by Association Part 2
In Genesis 14 we run into two tests in the life of Abraham. A test is always related to a volitional decision, so one of the things we are paying attention to as we go through the life of Abraham is, where do we find situations where Abraham has to make a choice to apply doctrine? As we see this his life just sort of unfolds. Each of these episodes in his life from Genesis 12 through 24 relate to Abraham having to make some sort of decision related to something that God has promised him, something that God has told him, and he has to apply doctrine. Within the framework of the Bible this ultimately goes down to the Abrahamic covenant and the threefold promise that God makes to Abraham there in terms of land seed, and blessing. Notice that there is a promise, a test, a reiteration of promises. So that tells us as believers that the key elements in the Christian life is to learn those promises, provisions and principles that God has given us because that is what we are tested on on a daily basis. We are not going to keep our mental attitude strong and sharp and firm if we think that we can just be in Bible class once every now and then. We can't be in class every day but we need to be listening to the Word every day. We have to do that so that the mind keeps focused on the Word of God as the priority. We are barraged day in and day out by human viewpoint. Most believers delude themselves into thinking that we really have arrived at a level of knowledge where we are doing okay. That fact is that until we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord, and the sin nature is no longer present, that is not true. We need that constant reminder because the wiles of the devil are extremely subtle and deceptive and it is very easy for us to get into complacency and self-sufficiency.
Chapter fourteen is a test related to the blessing provision in the Abrahamic covenant where God commanded Abraham to be a blessing to those around him. That is true of the church age as well where we are to be a blessing to those around us. The chapter revolves around two tests and both of them are related to Abraham fulfilling that command to be a blessing. Whenever we have a volitional decision that relates to application of doctrine, that is a test. Abraham's first test is covered in the first 17 verses, and this has to do with the invasion of the four kings from the east.
Genesis 14:12, "And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed." Lot was an extremely wealthy businessman, as Abraham was.
Then we come to Abraham's test in verse 13, "And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan." Abraham is living in Hebron at this time, just south west of Salem, and he has allied himself with some Amorites. Notice here that he is identified as "Abram the Hebrew." This is the first reference to Hebrews. In the Old Testament the Jews are rarely referred to as Hebrews, they are referred to as the sons of Israel. There was another group of people in the ancient world that were known as the Apiru who seem to have been some kind of marauding band of Bedouins. It is possible that they may have been identified with the Amalekites. But the term "Hebrew" is probably derived from Abraham's ancestor Eber, but there was a certain similarity of sound between Hebrew and Apiru and so the Jews did not like to be identified as Hebrews because they didn't want to be confused with the Apiru who brought much trouble and devastation in the ancient world. This is the first time we have Abraham identified as "the Hebrew" which indicates he is well known, and has a stature in his community and in the world at that time where he is known by those around him. So he is found now in close association with three Amorite brothers and they are going to aid him in the protection of the land.
Abraham has a choice at this time. When he hears that Lot has been taken captive he could just say it was tough luck and that there was not a whole lot he could do. So he has a test at this point. It is related to the mandate of God, and the question: Am I going to be a blessing to those around me or not? So he makes the decision based o the doctrine in his soul and based on the moral courage that the doctrine has given him, to gather his men together, along with the servants of his allies—Mamre and his two brothers—and they go after this experienced army that has just wreaked havoc all the way through the ancient world. They make a decision. He takes his servants who, it will be noticed, were trained. They went in pursuit as far as Dan, but at this time there was no Dan. Dan is a term that is applied to the northern part of the promised land after the Jews came in and took the land after the conquest. The armies meet at the site of Hobah. The battle is described in verse 15, "And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus." So once he catches up with them there is a night assault. He divides up his forces and probably hit them from at least two sides, if not from three, and with the night attack and surprise on his side, even though the opposition forces outnumbered him, he was able to rout them. Verse 16, "And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people." Imagine all the plunder that these armies had amassed going through all these various battles. It must have been a tremendous sight, and Abraham comes along and rescues all of it. He is functioning as a blessing to the ancient world. This takes us right back to Genesis 12:2, "…and you shall be a blessing." So Abraham is passing this test.
But the test then turns into a second test. This is what we often find happens in our own spiritual life. We get in one set of circumstances where we are forced to make a decision as to whether or not we will apply the Word or not. We apply the Word and as a result of application of the Word we then move into another test. Because of what Abraham had done in defeating these enemies he now moves into another form of the blessing by association test.
The doctrine of blessing by association
1) Definition: Blessing by association is the extension of benefits of divine blessing to those in the periphery of either a) a Jew, or b) a Christian. Therefore it is a consequence of divine grace. It is undeserved and unearned but nevertheless there are those who receive the overflow of blessing.
2) Certain logistical blessings of God go to all Jews wherever they are on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant. The Jewish race is going to continue down throughout history because God has certain promises that He has made to Abraham that have never yet been fulfilled. The provisions of the Abrahamic covenant are still in effect.
3) Blessing by association in relation to Christians is the result of God's blessing provision or protection for believers which overflows to those in his periphery. So it is a different dynamic functioning for church age believers. So for the church age believer the basis for blessing differs because it is a different contract. We are not under the Abrahamic covenant, we are beneficiaries of the new covenant. The believer receives blessing from God on the basis of grace because he has the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. As we advance and mature then God distributes these blessings, and when God distributes these blessings to the maturing believer there is always going to be benefits to those around him.
4) The biblical basis for understanding this is seen in two cases, both in Genesis: the provision of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12:2, and the episode on Genesis 18.
5) Blessing by association may also extend to historical heritage. An example is in 1 Kings 11:12 after Solomon has been so disobedient to the Lord and is told that the kingdom will be torn away from him. "Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son." There is historical heritage blessing by association. The same kind of thing is seen in the history of western Europe. The Reformation heritage has extended from the early part of the sixteenth century down through the twentieth century in providing stable institutions. What we have to recognize is that divine blessing is based on grace, never on works, and the blessing is based upon the righteousness we possess from imputed righteousness. Blessing by association in the church age is an extension of John 13:34, 35—through the operation of impersonal love for all mankind. Romans 12:14, "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not."
So what we see in these two episodes in Genesis 14 is that Abraham understands that he is to be a blessing to those around him. The principle is to love your neighbor as yourself.