The heart of God is at the center of the gospel message. His affections towards His people is not a great mystery that needs to be discovered but has been revealed in the person and work of Jesus. God’s heart towards His people is seen throughout Scripture. The Lord desires that sinners experience His love and grace, as revealed in the gospel. Many people, however, do not see God as loving and full of grace but see Him as a wrathful being whose desire is to punish sinners. Yet, this is not the view of the heart of God seen in the Bible, which is what Dane Ortlund discusses in his new book Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Crossway, 2020).
The main point Ortlund makes is found in chapter seventeen, “The message of this book is that we tend to project our natural expectations about who God is onto him instead of fighting to let the Bible surprise us into what God himself says” (155). Leaning heavily on the writings of Puritans such as Thomas Goodwin and John Owen, Ortlund walks through major biblical themes that reveal the heart of God.
Ultimately, the heart of God is revealed in the work of Christ. The fact that God Himself was willing to enter human history in the person of Jesus shows just how far He is willing to go to rescue sinners from the penalty of sin. Many people, however, fail to see the heart of God as grace and love. Instead, they see God as wrathful and ready to punish sinners at any moment. Yet, what is seen in Scripture is that God, while can be provoked to anger, is slow to anger. Ortlund unpacks this idea well by reminding the reader that God’s default is not anger but grace. Exodus: 34:6-7 reveals God as slow to anger but abounding in love.
Ortlund ends the book by reminding the reader that there is nothing that sinners need to do to enjoy the benefits of God’s heart towards them. All that can be done is to enjoy simply. I love his sentiment in the epilogue when he writes, “The Christian life boils down to two simple steps: (1) Go to Jesus and (2) See #1” (216). This is the true message of the gospel. Run to Jesus. Enjoy Jesus. It’s that simple.
Gentle and Lowly is an extremely refreshing read. Ortlund’s desire to point to the heart of God, as revealed in Scripture, is well made. The book is very pastoral in nature and tenderly written from the heart of one sinner to another. This would be a great resource for small group or personal study. It is broken into twenty-three short chapters, which lends itself to deep reflection on the topics discussed in each. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with doubt or who needs a fresh reminder of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus.