“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks…” ~Hebrews 11:4

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” ~Isaiah 11:1

We welcomed Abel Jesse Welch to our family on May 10. Praise God for a healthy baby boy! Thank you for all your prayers. Abel’s big brothers are infatuated. He is learning to sleep through an onslaught of affection.

Most of you could guess at a Hebrew name for baby, but no one came up with Abel. Someone wondered aloud about naming a baby after the first tragedy in the Bible. I thought, “Don’t you know anyone named Adam?!” All of our names become redemption stories when Jesus gets ahold of us.

Here’s the “good word” that Abel Jesse’s name speaks to me. First of all, he is the first person of faith in the Bible. He is also the first shepherd. By faith, Abel offered the firstborn of his flock to the Lord. This is in contrast to Cain, whose countenance fell when he apparently didn’t receive from the Lord what he thought his sacrifice should have earned.

Abel’s story also demonstrates the perennial human concern for justice and the persistent human need for grace. Abel’s spilled blood cried out to the Lord for justice (Genesis 4:10). Cain challenged the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We know that the “brotherhood of man” has been fragile from the first family unto today. Even so, God delivers his grace in the midst of our sin and rivalries, through “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

Another aspect of Abel Jesse’s name speaks to the preciousness of life and to God’s faithfulness to bring resurrection out of death. The Hebrew name Abel means “breath” or “vapor.” It is the same word used in Ecclesiastes to say, “Vanity of vanities!” Life is a fragile gift. We continue to learn this lesson in both trivial and tragic ways.

Nevertheless, we trust in the Lord who made a shoot [Jesus] to come out of the stump of Jesse [Israel] and a branch to grow out of his roots. When we were stumped in sin, God came in Christ to save. When our hope has been cut off, Jesus is the True Vine in whom we abide, take refuge, and bear fruit that lasts.

Abel Jesse was born to us after a pregnancy loss in 2020. If things had gone according to our plan, there never would have been this baby we now have. God has graciously given us another precious life to raise – a brother to keep. Life is but a breath, but the Holy Spirit has breathed new life in us.

Pr. Tom