On October 6, 1845, attorney William R. Wheaton umpired the first recorded “modern” game of base ball (two separate words in those days). The teams were amateur clubs, and the Knickerbockers Club of New York set forth the rule that there should be three umpires, one chosen by each team, and a neutral referee to decide split decisions. In 1858, the National Association of Base Ball Players sanctioned a single umpire chosen by the home team with the consent of the rival captain. And so umpires have been ruling the diamond ever since.
In those very early days, the umpire was usually a spectator or a player; someone, in other words, who knew the game well, and, even in the case of a spectator, probably had experience playing it. Who better to understand what was happening? Would you choose someone off the street who had never even seen a game? Would you choose someone from another country who could hardly even speak English to make important decisions in a distinctly American pastime?
And so Job says that we had the same problem under the Old Law—there was no one who understood both sides of the equation. There was no one who could “lay his hands on both” God and man.
Then God emptied Himself, taking “the form of a servant,” becoming man, being “tempted in all points like us.” Finally there was someone who understood both what it was like to be man and what is was like to be God. He could identify with either and sympathize with both. Is there anyone any better qualified to be “the one mediator between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus?”
We have talked about that often, and read those passages often, but they reminded me of something I need to be careful about. When I was much younger, I had all the answers. When someone came to me with a problem, the solution was simple. “This is what the Bible says to do. If you don’t, you don’t have enough faith. Shame on you!” In every case, I had no experience with the problem they were asking about, and so while I may have had a “right” answer, what I was seriously lacking in was compassion. I really did not understand the problem because I had never experienced it. But I am not the only one. Many of my brethren are notorious for a lack of compassion, for stern reprimands and little understanding.
Let me say this quickly—having compassion does not mean the right answer changes. What it does mean is I am less judgmental, more willing to forgive, and far more willing to see a problem through with a brother or sister, no matter how long it takes. I am far less likely to become exasperated when they need encouragement yet again. I understand that one long afternoon of counseling doesn’t necessarily make all the ramifications of sin disappear. I MUST understand that I DON’T really understand and never will, and therefore must be patient. If God had to become man to understand what it was like to be a man, why do I think I can come running in with my rigid rules and expect a person to suddenly become my idea of the perfect Christian when I have never been in their shoes? I am one lousy advisor (umpire) if I do.
Which then, of course, makes me realize how blessed we are to be standing in these “last days,” where we do have that Umpire, who can lay His hands upon us both, and with amazing compassion, understand every problem, every trial, and every failure. And this Umpire, who is far more merciful than we are, never makes a bad call.
Since the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily not to angels does he give help, but he gives help to the seed of Abraham. Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted, Heb 2:14-18.