Book Review | Gentle and Lowly

“The world is starving for a yearning love, a love that remembers instead of forsakes.  A love that isn’t tied to our loveliness.  A love that gets down under our messiness.  A love that is bigger than the enveloping darkness we might be walking through even today.  A love of which even the very best human romances is the faintest of whispers.” p. 168

I’ll go ahead and lead with…this is my book of the year. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund was a balm for my 2020 weary soul in so many ways. I’m so glad I saved it for Thanksgiving week to read. Early mornings while the house was quiet with a cup of coffee was the way to go. There were many tears shed over this one and lots of rereading to really marinate in the text.

My prayer and heart’s desire in the midst of everything we’ve all walked through this past year is that I would truly see and hear what people are walking through. Asking the Lord to help my heart be more tender in all things to all people because of the love and mercy I have experienced.

This book helped me love Jesus more and recognize how deeply I am loved. I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • “Fatherlike he tends and spares us, Well our feeble frame he knows, In his hand he gently bears us, Rescues us from all our foes.” H.F. Lyte, 1834
  • But the safest way to theological fidelity is sticking close to the biblical text. p. 14
  • We are not focusing centrally on what Christ has done.  We are considering who he is.  The two matters are bound up together and indeed interdependent.  But they are distinct. p. 15
  • It is one thing to describe what your husband says and does and looks like.  It is something else, something deeper and more real, to describe his heart for you.  So with Christ.  I tis one thing to know the doctrines of the incarnation and the atonement and a hundred other vital doctrines.  It is another, more searching matter to know his heart for you. p. 16
  • I am gentle and lowly in heart. Matthew 11:29 p. 17
  • Come to me, all 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. Matthew 11:28-30 p. 18
  • The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible.  For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ. p. 20
  • Gentleness is who he is.  It is his heart. p. 21
  • The Jesus given to us in the gospels is not simply one who loves, but one who is love; merciful affections stream from his innermost heart as rays from the sun. p. 27
  • Consider Jesus. In Levitical categories, he is the cleanest person to ever walk the face of the earth.  He was the Clean One. …And what did he do when he saw the unclean?  What was his first impulse when he ran across prostitutes and lepers?  He moved toward them. ..He was reversing the Jewish system.  When Jesus, the Clean One, touched an unclean sinner, Christ did not become unclean.  The sinner became clean. p. 31
  • If compassion clothed itself in a human body and went walking around this earth, what would it look like?  We don’t have to wonder. p. 32
  • When you come to Christ for mercy and love and help in your anguish and perplexity and sinfulness, you are going with the flow of his deepest wishes, not against them. p. 38
  • We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.  Hebrews 4:15 p. 43
  • Our tendency is to feel intuitively that the more difficult life gets, the more alone we are.  As we sink further into pain, we sink further into felt isolation.  The Bible corrects us.  Our pain never outstrips what he himself shares in.  We are never alone.  That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the past and is now shouldered by him in the present. p. 48
  • He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward. Hebrews 5:2 p. 51
  • The Greek world underlying “deal gently” in 5:2 shares a common root with “sympathize” in 4:15, and the original hearers and readers of Hebrews would likely have picked up on this in a way that is missed in English. p. 52
  • What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin but whether the sinner comes to him. Whatever our offense, he deals gently with us. p. 54
  • Our sinfulness runs so deep that a tepid measure of gentleness from Jesus would not be enough; but as deep our sinfulness runs, ever deeper runs his gentleness. p. 56
  • Contrary to what we expect to be the case, therefore, the deeper into weakness and suffering and testing we go, the deeper Christ’s solidarity with us.  As we go down into pain and anguish, we are descending ever deeper into Christ’s very heart, not away from it. p. 57
  • Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaving.  Looking out to Christ, we can only anticipate gentleness. p. 57
  • Our strength of resolve is not part of the formula of retaining his good will. p. 65
  • Psalm 63:8 expresses the double-sided truth: “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” p. 65
  • For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence.  You are not a tenant; you are a child.  His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments.  It is who he is. p. 66
  • And just as we can hardly fathom the divine ferocity awaiting those out of Christ, it is equally true that we can hardly fathom the divine tenderness already resting now on those in Christ.  We might feel a little bashful or uncomfortable or even guilty in emphasizing God’s tenderness as intensively as his wrath.  But the Bible feels no such discomfort.  Consider Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” The guilt and shame of those in Christ is ever outstripped by his abounding grace.  When we feel as if our thoughts, words, and deeds are diminishing God’s grace toward us, those sins and failures are in fact causing it to surge forward all the more. p. 68
  • The Bible says that when God looks at his people’s sinfulness, his transcendent holiness–his God-ness, his very divinity, that about God which makes him not us–is what makes him unable to come down on his people in wrath.  We tend to think that because he is God and not us, the fact that he is holy renders it all the more certain that he will visit wrath on his sinful people.  Once more, we are corrected; we are brought out from under our natural ways of creative God in our own image, and we allow God himself to tell us who he is. p. 74
  • The sins of those who belong to God open the floodgates of his heart of compassion for us.  The dam breaks.  It is not our loveliness that wins his love.  It is our unloveliness. p. 75
  • He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 p. 77
  • Justification is tied to what Christ did in the past.  Intercession is what he is doing in the present. p. 78
  • Intercession applies what the atonement accomplished.  Christ’s present heavenly intercession on our behalf is a reflection of the fullness and victory and completeness of his earthly work, not a reflection of anything lacking in his earthly work.  The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work.  In the past , Jesus did what he now talks about; in the present, Jesus talks about what he then did. p. 79
  • “It is a consoling thought,” wrote theologian Louis Berkhof, “that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life.” p. 84 (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1958), 400.
  • Do not minimize your sin or excuse it away.  Raise no defense.  Simply take it to the one who is already at the right hand of the Father, advocating for you on the basis of his own wounds.  Let your own unrighteousness, in all your darkness and despair, drive you to Jesus Christ, the righteous, in all his brightness and sufficiency. p. 94
  • Have we considered the loveliness of the heart of Christ? p. 98
  • With our own kids, if we are parents, what’s our job? That question could be answered with a hundred valid responses.  But at the center, our job is to show our kids that even our best love is a shadow of a greater love.  To put a sharper edge on it: to make the tender heart of Christ irresistible and unforgettable. p. 100
  • His desire to draw near to sinners and sufferers is not only doctrinally true but aesthetically attractive. p. 101
  • Let Christ’s heart for you not only wash you in his compassion but also assure you of his solidarity in rage against all that distresses you, most centrally death and hell. p. 112
  • “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W.Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy p. 127
  • As you consider the Father’s heart for you, remember that he is the Father of mercies.  He is not cautious in his tenderness toward you.  He multiplies mercies matched to your every need, and there is nothing he would rather do. “Remember,” said the Puritan John Flavel, “that this God in whose hand are all creatures, is your Father, and is much more tender of you that you are, or can be, of yourself.” Your gentlest treatment of yourself is less gentle than the way your heavenly Father handles you.  His tenderness toward you outstrips what you are even capable of toward yourself. p. 133
  • The Belgic Confession beautifully articulates God’s governance of all things in its teaching on divine providence, part of which reads: This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious Heavenly Father, who watches over us with fatherly care, sustaining all creatures under his lordship, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. (Article 13) p. 138
  • Left to our own natural intuitions about God, we will conclude that mercy is his strange work and judgement his natural work.  Rewiring our vision of God as we study the Scripture, we see, helped by the great teaches of the past, that judgement is his strange work and mercy his natural work. p. 144
  • My thoughts are not your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8 p. 155
  • “There is nothing that troubles our consciences more,” said John Calvin on this passage, “than when we think that God is like ourselves.” p. 155
  • God’s heart of compassion confounds our intuitive predilections about how he loves to respond to his people if they would but dump in his lap the ruin and wreckage of their lives. p. 160
  • The world is starving for a yearning love, a love that remembers instead of forsakes.  A love that isn’t tied to our loveliness.  A love that gets down under our messiness.  A love that is bigger than the enveloping darkness we might be walking through even today.  A love of which even the very best human romances is the faintest of whispers. p. 168
  • On the cross, we see what God did to satisfy his yearning for us.  He went that far.  He went all the way.  The blushing effusiveness of heaven’s bowels funneled down into the crucifixion of Christ.  Repent of your small thoughts of God’s heart.  Repent and let him love you. p. 170
  • Ephesians 2Verses 1-3 tell us why we needed saving; we were spiritually dead.Verses 5-6 tell us what the saving was; God made us alive.But it’s verse 4, right in the middle, that tells us why God saved us.Verses 1-3 are the problem; verses 5-6 are the solution; and verse 4 is the reason God actually went about fixing the problem rather than leaving us where we were. p. 171
  • Christ was not sent to mend wounded people or wake sleepy people or advise confused people or inspire bored people or spur on lazy people or educate ignorant people, but to raise dead people. p. 175
  • If God sent his own Son to walk through the valley condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust him as you walk through your own valleys on your way to heaven. p. 179
  • We love until we are betrayed.  Jesus continued to the cross despite betrayal.  We love until we are forsaken.  Jesus loved through forsakeness.  We love up to a limit, Jesus loves to the end. p. 198
  • …so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us. Ephesians 2:7 p. 205
  • Christ’s glory is preeminently seen and enjoyed in his love to sinners. p. 207

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.