Title: Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ For Sinners and Sufferers
Author: Dane Ortlund
Publisher and Year: Crossway, 2020
ISBN: 9781433566134

This little book by Dane Ortlund was recommended by a number of people I know and rated as a great read. I wholeheartedly agree and recommend you pick it up for yourself sometime. The introduction suggests that the book is simply asking “what does the Bible say about the heart of Christ, about who He really is”.

This book describes Jesus is a way that I am not sure I have ever contemplated. It has made me ponder the death and resurrection of Christ in a new light, understanding the “heart” behind his actions. But the subtitle of Gentle and Lowly captures the essence of it beautifully: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.

I have been struck by the horrendous nature of sin and the utter hopelessness of the fallen human condition. Though not a light and flowery topic, God has been teaching me that unless I truly understand the weight of my sin, I cannot truly appreciate or take hold of the offer of forgiveness that Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection to new life brings.

Sin is a weighty topic, but throughout the book, I have been encouraged that our very burdens are what qualifies us to come and kneel at the foot of the cross.  In fact, kneeling before Jesus is our only hope. “With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very things that qualify us to approach him.”

Gentle and Lowly centres on these verses from Matthew 11:28-30,

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus’ very heart is to offer rest. It’s not something we need to earn. Just come.

Now I’m not sure how weary you are feeling, but the offer of rest of inviting, is it not? This rest is much more than the feet up on the couch with Netflix and a cup of tea kind of rest. It’s rest for our restless, unsatisfied, self-seeking, sinful souls. Sin makes us labour, makes us weary, makes us heavy ladened or burdened. Its unfulfilling, its ugly, it’s deceitful.

Jesus encourages us in these verses to Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. A yoke that is normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs provides the beautiful image of Jesus guiding us and leading us in his ways. But this isn’t a heavy, uncomfortable yoke as it may be for two working animals. It is easy, and his burden is light. Jesus wants to gently walk beside us, teaching us, guiding us. He is “gentle and lowly” or approachable in how he teaches us and loves us.

Ortlund goes on in the book to describe that our Lord Jesus Christ yearns for us to come to him. He is joyful when we repent of our sin. He is not one who is unfamiliar with our sufferings and temptations, but while on earth was tempted in every way but did not sin. He deals gently with us and will never cast us out.

I’ve been challenged by the fact that even in our attempts to honour God when we do turn to him, we are self-seeking, impatient, proud, and judgemental often putting ourselves above others, having wrong motives and not serving him joyfully. But despite our ugliness, Jesus died for us.

Ortlund says that “when we come to him for forgiveness, communing with him despite our sinfulness we are laying hold of Christs own deepest longing and joy”. He explains that Jesus is comforted when we draw from the riches of his atoning work because his own body is getting healed.

I’ve learnt that rather than seeing ourselves as the object of God’s affection and love because we are so loveable and fabulous, Christs demonstration of his love for us was to restore God’s people to a right relationship with him, thus bringing Him glory and honour. The only way we can respond to this is with humble thanks and gratitude. This has made me want to read more, learn more, and think more about our great God and his word.

I was gifted a copy of this great devotional at the beginning of the year and its title “daily treasure” has been just that. While reading Charles Spurgeon’s daily insights into the psalms I have a newfound enthusiasm for old school theologians and their beautiful, elevated language. I have been encouraged that reading the bible is a source of true joy and amazing wisdom that we must read and read again.

In this review, I want to remind you and I that we are dirty rotten sinners, bad to the core. I want to remind you and I that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He did this to bring us to God. Jesus says come to him; we will find rest for our souls. How do we find this rest, by trusting and knowing him. How do we know him more, we read God’s word.

In Day by Day, Spurgeon has been a breath of fresh air and such an encouragement to me so I’ll finish with some his words:

All the more because of the sin and obstinacy and pride of man, shall God be glorified when grace reigns unto eternal life in all corners of the world.

The Bible must be your chart and you must exercise great watchfulness that your way may be according to its directions.

The words of the Lord serve us for many purposes; in our sorrows they are our delight, and in our difficulties, they are our guides; we derive joy from them and discover wisdom in them. 

So let us come to Him; all of us who labour and are heavy laden. He will give us rest. Let us take his yoke upon us and learn from Him, for he is gentle and lowly in heart, and we will find rest for our souls. For his yoke is easy and his burden is light.