Gentle and Lowly Book Review
By Pastor Mark Smith
A Helpful Book in a Time of Need
It is an understatement to say last year brought a lot of feelings. When I look back on the complexities of it all, while knowing we aren’t out of the woods yet, it’s important to remember what encouraged me during the pandemic.
When Gentle & Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund came out, I was eager to read it since I am generally a fan of him and the resources he used to write this book. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. In fact, since I’ve read it, it has continued to be one of my favorite books on the nature of Jesus’ heart, how it relates to us, and how historical faith giants saw Jesus’ heart revealed in the Scriptures. Here is my review of it, a brief introduction if you’ve never heard of it, and a surprise announcement at the end for you.
Into Jesus’ Very Heart
What did Jesus mean in Matthew 11:29 when He described himself as “gentle and lowly in heart?” As Ortlund reflected on this question, he came to find that much has been written on what Jesus has done, but the question of Jesus’ heart toward people, as wondrously expressed in Matthew 11, has much been less discussed in recent decades. As the cover page reads, “This book reflects on these words, opening up a neglected yet central truth about who he is for sinners and sufferers today.” It is not enough to know what Christ has done for you, but crucial to know the depths of his heart for you as well.
Take for example, this excerpt from chapter 10:
“Christ’s meekness and humility are the very way Christ himself describes his own heart in Matthew 11:29. In other words, it is Christ’s gentle heart that adorns him with beauty; or put the other way, what most deeply attracts us to Christ is his gentle, tender, humble heart.” (pg.97)
Into the Passion of the Puritans
A major inspiration and help for Ortlund were the pastors and theologians of the 17th and 18th centuries; also known as the Puritans. Puritans were passionate about discovering as much as they could about the difference Jesus makes. Their deep commitment to the Scriptures mixed with thoughtful prose and practical insight into theological application continues to serve modern audiences today.
As Ortlund discovered, none of this could have happened without their keen ability to teach and preach about Jesus’ heart. Within Gentle and Lowly is a treasure trove of Puritan quotes and insights into passages that would be difficult to find on your own. It is clear Ortlund loves the Puritans.
Take for instance this gem from one of my favorites, John Bunyan:
“As you must know him, and how men are justified by him, so you must know the readiness that is in him to receive and to do for those what they need that come unto God by him. Suppose his merits were (completely) efficacious, yet if it could be proved that there is a loathness in him that these merits should be bestowed upon the coming ones, there would but few adventure to wait upon him. But now, as he is full, he is free. Nothing pleases him better than to give what he has away; than to bestow it upon the poor and needy. (pg. 81)
Into the Heart of the Scriptures
Now, at this point, you may be thinking that the focus of Jesus’ heart towards us sounds a little mushy or a book loaded with other people’s quotes doesn’t fill your soul with sanctifying enjoyment. Maybe you don’t find either to be particularly inspirational. Well, that’s kind of alright, although I have my concerns. But if I could attest one more argument, Ortlund couldn’t make this book what it is without his superb exegesis and theological understanding of the Scriptures. His writing dives into passages with lofty intellect yet presents truth with ease. It is both deep and comprehensive. It’s a great resource for those seeking a book to swim in for a while or to read with friends.
This leads me to the good news. A few months ago, I was offered a bunch of free copies of Gentle and Lowly from Crossway. Don’t ask me how I got this… OK, it was an email! I can’t keep secrets related to books. But nonetheless, our church has copies to give anyone interested while supplies last.
If you would like your free copy, the only request we have is you read it and let us know what you think! It would be even better to read with friends, spouse, or your Hallows DNA group. Whatever you choose, we would love to give you one! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jessie Heaviland at email@example.com to arrange a pick up. Copies are becoming limited and subject to change based on availability, so be sure to pick yours up soon!