Years ago I thought about volunteering to umpire Little League games. At least, until I saw Jimmy Crossett one night, in the middle of a huge dispute at home plate. Both opposing coaches were yelling at him as a rowdy crowd jeered and two teams of fourth graders looked on. I can still picture it today—Jimmy standing there in his black uniform, chest protector sagging, holding his face mask in one hand, trying to sort out and explain his call. Right then and there I decided God was not calling me to umpire Little League games.
The umpire is in a tough position. He must, in an instant, recall all the rules of the game, apply them to the play he just saw, and make a call. Rarely can he take his time, reverse a call, or waffle on a call—his call is law—and it can make or break a game. And if you say, “It’s just a game—It doesn’t matter,” then you have not watched many Little League games!
The Old Testament character, Job, found himself wishing for an umpire. For some reason, unknown to him, the wheels had fallen off of his life. Though he was a God-fearing, diligently prayerful, righteous man—his life and family were shattered by painful loss, and his supposed friends were pointing fingers of guilt at him.
It began like any other day. Job was at home and his children were together in his oldest son’s house (Job 1:13). Then in an instant, everything changed. All Job’s livestock was stolen and his servants were slain (verses 14-15). A second messenger told Job that fire fell out of heaven and burned up all his sheep and shepherds (verse 16). Immediately, another reported that his large herd of camels was stolen and their keepers killed (verse 17). Then, the saddest news—a great windstorm blew down the house of his oldest son—killing all of his children, seven sons and three daughters (verses 18, 19).
Through all this heartbreak, Job kept his integrity, did not blame God, but in fact, fell to the ground and worshiped Him (Job 1:20). He realized, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (verse 21).
As if Job had not faced enough tragedy, he was then smitten with incurable sores over his entire body (Job 2:7, 8). He was so affected by this condition that when three friends came to comfort him, he was unrecognizable. They broke into tears, weeping, and said not a word for seven days (verses 11-13).
No doubt Job later wished his friends had stayed silent. For when they did speak, they heaped on him words of condemnation, guilt and judgment. Job’s friends were convinced that all the evil befell him because of sins he had committed. Then, from chapter 3 through chapter 37, Job records the dialogue between him and his friends, as they accused, while he excused, his behavior. Job was convinced he didn’t deserve the tragic circumstances he received—while his friends tried to prove that he did. What none of them knew was that God was at work behind the scenes, in all the calamities, showing Satan that Job was a righteous, godly man (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6).
All this makes me wonder: Does God care about what we are going through? Sometimes it seems God is absent when things hurt us. Other times we notice our prayers are not answered according to our desires. Job must have thought similarly, because he spoke of God’s aloofness when he said about God, “He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both” (Job 9:32, 33). As Job felt helpless, with God seemingly out of touch, he cried out for an arbitrator, or umpire—someone who understood both God and man—and could bring them together in harmony.
The good news for Job, and for everyone of us, is that God has provided the perfect Umpire—the faultless Arbitrator, who understands both God and man and can bring us together—in the person of His Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
It was for this reason Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). It was Jesus who “was made for a little while lower than the angels … because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (verse 9). Jesus, the Son of God and Son of man shared “in flesh and blood” so that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (verses 14, 15).
When Job cried out for an umpire, one who could understand the sinless God and sinful men—one who could please God’s demands and forgive man’s sins—he was asking for Jesus. And God provided just such a mediator…just such a Savior! “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 1:5, 6). He alone can please God and save people!