The Commonplace
2 Kings 5:11-12
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand…

This irritation of Naaman is so natural that it hardly requires any words of explanation. We recognise in a moment what vexed him so, just because we have been so often vexed ourselves. Naaman expected a striking and startling cure. He knew how the Syrian magicians would conduct themselves; they would come forth in procession muttering their incantations, and moving their hands in mysterious and magnetic fashion over the sufferer. Something of this kind, no doubt, Naaman was expecting when he rode up in state to Elisha's door. Then came Elisha's message, "Go and wash in Jordan" — go and do something that any man could do.

I. THE WIDESPREAD IRRITATION AT THE COMMONPLACE WAS FAIRLY MANIFESTED IN THE CASE OF NAAMAN. I think I need hardly remind you of another Bible story where the most intense dislike makes itself manifest. "Is not this the carpenter's son? Do we not know his brothers?" It was with such words that the Jews discredited Jesus. Like Naaman, they were intensely irritated with the commonplaceness of this Messiah. It was a prevalent belief among the Jews that the second Adam would come in full-grown manhood like the first. They had the convenient habit, which we all possess, of forgetting the prophecies they wanted to. Suddenly, in some effulgence of glory, perhaps from the secret of the Temple, Christ would appear. They were looking for some spectacular performance, like Naaman when he came posting to Elisha. Then Christ was born in a little hillside village, and he wrought with Joseph who was a village carpenter, and he played with his comrades in a village street. But to come nearer home, and think of ourselves. Are we not all prone to the same irritation? Think, for example, of how we regard our newspapers. A man takes up his paper with a feeling of expectancy always, and almost always lays it down with a feeling of disappointment. We say, "There is nothing in the newspaper this morning — nothing;" and so we throw it down. What we really mean is there is nothing startling, nothing to thrill us, and hold us by its tragedy. For every morning there is the record of birth in it, the echoing music of new created life; every morning there is the record of death in it, with its untold sorrow and its unimagined fears. "There is nothing in it." Is that vain vexation not akin to Naaman's when he was bidden by Elisha to go and wash in Jordan? Does it not indicate it is very hard to realise the value of the ordinary? The fact is, we are half savage at our heart yet, and we have all the savage's delight in glaring colours. I cannot help thinking, too, that much of man's world-weariness, much of the disappointment that middle life brings with it is connected by very real, yet subtle, ties with this deep-seated vexation at the commonplace. When we are young we all dream heroic dreams. We are all going to be soldiers, sea-captains, car-drivers. We start from childhood, as Naaman started from Syria, not knowing anything, but seeing glorious visions. Like Naaman, we are bidden go wash in Jordan. Our joys have nothing remarkable about them; they are just the joys of every one else in the terrace. Our sorrows have nothing spectacular about them. There are a thousand hearts that have been torn like ours. We are not such geniuses as we once thought we were. Matched with the great world we have come to find our level. My point is that the wrong handling of that discovery is at the back of half the disappointment of maturity, at the back of half of its sin, and of its drunkenness and its divorce. How many men turn away in a rage from life's plain duty, not because it is difficult, but because it is dull. And in our Christian experience, for we are here under the banner of Christ as Christians, have we not known something in our Christian experience of Naaman's disappointments? I think that many men come to Jesus of Nazareth as the commander of Syria came to the prophet Elisha — we come because we need Him. We come because of the leprosy of sin. We have read such wonderful things about that great revival moving in the very heart of Wales, that we come all eager with glorious expectation. God forbid that I should even hint that these expectations are disappointed; He is able to save even to the uttermost. But when we come and cannot see Him, when we hear a voice that says, "Go, wash in Jordan," when instead of swift miracle there is only plain command that we have heard from our childhood, when instead of great deeds there is dull and dreary service, have not men, not to say women, been moved even against Christ with this feeling that animated Naaman? You must resist that feeling, you must fight it down. To turn away from Elisha in a rage was a very poor and pitiable thing; but to turn away from Christ Jesus in a rage is the one fatal act of a man's life.

II. THERE ARE FEW THINGS MORE DANGEROUS THAN THIS DISLIKE. Let me indicate to you three very plain reasons that make it so perilous to cherish this irritation.

1. Will you remember, first, that the commonplace is the warp and woof of life? It is the material out of which our days are made. Take yesterday; think how you spent it till sunset and evening star, and you have the record of a thousand ordinary things. The fabric of our common days is commonplace. We waken, we eat, we work, we pray — God grant it — and we sleep. We go through the dull routine of daily duty; we have our little undistinguished share of trial. One of our modern novelists says a wise thing about greatness, that sadly outraged and mismanaged word. Greatness, he says, is to take the common things of life and to walk truly among them. No matter how stirring your life may be, it will be a failure if you have never been wakened to the glory of the usual. There is no happiness like the old and common happiness — sunshine. love, duty, the laughter of little children. Only a fool could think that yacht or motor-car was to be laid in the balance with these abiding things. ?

2. Then the commonplace, remember, is God's preparation for the great. It prepares us to meet great hours when they come. Simple obedience to a very plain command, for us as for Naaman, is the path to glorious hours. What did our Lord mean in that parable when He makes the Master say, "Be thou ruler of ten cities"? What did He mean when He said, "Out of thy mouth I condemn thee, thou wicked servant. Take from him the pound and give it to him that hath ten pounds?" he meant that the capacity for royal government, the power to rise to great situations and play the king, was rooted in the brave and faithful handling of the commonplace and ordinary pound. It is always so. Trace back the failure that makes all the city talk, and you will find its roots in ill-regulated years. All a man's hope for a radiant to-morrow lies in his use of a commonplace to-day. If you cannot be faithful now when all is dreary, there is little hope of any victory then.

3. Think how Christ insists upon the commonplace. We all wish, do we not, to follow Him? The more I study Christ s life the more I am impressed by the value He sets upon the ordinary. He took a common lily that grew in tens of thousands, and He said, "Not even Solomon, in all his glory, is arrayed like one of these." He took a commonplace child — not over clean perhaps, but with such eyes — and said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." For Christ there was a whole universe within the mustard seed; for Christ there was a revelation in the sparrow. Instead of fretting like Naaman we shall say, "Yes, Lord, because Thou biddest me, I will go and wash in Jordan seven times.

(G. H. Morrison, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

WEB: But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leper.'

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