Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Biblical Perspective of a Classic.


Ever since I was a girl, I have wanted to see Les Miserable performed live. About two weeks ago the stars aligned and I finally got the chance when the North Carolina Theater put together a wonderful production filled with former Broadway stars right in my own backyard. It was amazing and worth the twenty-year wait.
Les Miserable is a story of redemption, poverty and the oppressiveness of a government who forgets its God-given mission to protect its citizens and instead leaves them to despair.
But the songs of the musical also contain a message as old as time. A message we all need to hear. The message of salvation.
Les Miserable takes place in 19th century France. The story encompasses the rise of its primary protagonist Jean Valjean, who represents the common man in the face of a hellish world, and the fall of the Antagonist Javert who is only ever referred to by his last name to provide a persona just less than human. Valjean is seen by society as a criminal for stealing (bread to feed a starving child) while Javert, a high ranking law enforcement official, sees himself as the protector of justice and is fueled by a righteous literalist view of faith and justice. When Valjean, is unable to find honest work due to his past trespasses, he changes his identity and breaks parole. Javert makes it his life goal to hunt down Valean.   The lifelong struggle between the two is not unlike a depiction of the Old Testament values pushed by the elites and Pharisees of the Old Testament arguing with the New Testament ideals represented through the new covenant that is Jesus in the Gospels.
Javert, who sees himself as defender of the light in a dark world has no place for grace due to his eye for an eye black and white mentality. In fact he can’t even accept grace. When his arch enemy offers him grace and spares his life, Javert spirals into depression and descends to death. He is the epitome of Christian legalism and shows the fruitlessness of such a belief.
On the other hand we have Valjean who tries to find redemption for 3 sins. For stealing  bread he is sentenced to a chain gang  and is released but sins again by stealing from a gentle church leader who takes him in at a moment of despair. When forgiven by the man he stole from and given a calling to live his life for God, he leaves behind his name, and transforms himself from law-breaker to a wealthy business man and the mayor of a city where he can help those less fortunate. But even as he seeks to live the life of a righteous man he commits a sin of indifference that leads to the death of an innocent Fantine, who leaves behind a small child, Cossette. Valjean attempts to seek redemption from his own guilty soul by adopting Cossette and raising her as his own. He soon learns that he can’t rewrite his life. Javert hunts him down and tries to arrests him. When given the chance to vanquish Javert he refuses to go against God’s law even to protect himself. As the story ends, Valjean, on his deathbed, sings “Forgive me for my trespasses and take me to your glory.” He realizes only the grace of God could make him another person and fully accepts it. He is rewarded as his soul ascends to heaven accompanied by Fantine.

Josette Downey  is the christian romance author of A Time to Say Goodbye and Bonds of Tradition. She has master’s degree in English From East Carolina University, and currently works for a premier test scoring company. She is the mother of a precocious six-year-old girl, who enjoys bugs, snakes and superman.  She enjoys southern cooking, reading and exploring emerging technology, but is best defined by her devotion to her faith and the empowerment of women in the modern world.

To learn more follow her at



  1. I saw a production in D.C., loved the music! Thanks for your exposition.

    1. oops, here's my email: garfsgirl [at] hotmail [dot] com

  2. How emotional! I would love to see a performance of Les Miserable!

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