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Divine Law And Grace


Les Miserables is a wonderful story of the salvation of a downtrodden man, who was being transformed from within as he began one of the most beautiful journeys ever written.

Victor Hugo wrote it in the 1860s. The spiritual and moral lessons in this story are still applicable today.

There were three main characters in the story. The main character, Jean Valjean, was a convict without hope. He was originally imprisoned for five years for stealing bread to satisfy himself when he was starving. But he was only released after 19 years locked in chains together with others. After his release, he was paroled. Shackled with his conviction, he was unable to begin a new life and start over again. In despair, he stole some silverware from a bishop's house.

The benevolent bishop was the second main character in the story. He showed the amazing grace and mercy of God by forgiving Valjean and helping him to begin life anew. He also inspired Valjean to be transformed into a new man having true grace and mercy.

The third character was a policeman named Javert. He hunted down Valjean ruthlessly after his release. Javert was convinced of his own righteousness. And he took the law into his own hands.

Les Miserables was a beautiful depiction of the gospel of Christ. It showed the contrast of the laws of man and the laws of God.

It showed us a beautiful picture of the divine law and grace in motion together.

At the beginning of the story, the petty thief, Valjean, was just released from prison. After being despised and rejected by many others, he was finally welcomed by a kind bishop who offered him warmth, food and shelter. However later in the night, Valjean stole some silverware in the bishop's house and ran away. He was caught with the stolen goods, and dragged back to the bishop by some police. The bishop forgave Valjean for stealing from his home, and even gave him more than he had stolen. He also told Valjean, "By the Passion and the Blood, God has raised you out of darkness; I have bought your soul for God!"

Through this encounter with grace, Valjean was transformed over the years. He became a successful businessman, and was widely noted for his social works and helps towards the poor and needy.

Meanwhile, the zealous policeman Javert hunted Valjean down ruthlessly, convinced of his own righteousness and ways.

This story was not about grace against law. In fact, it depicted more correctly the ways of God against the ways of man. True grace and law in motion together.

Psalm 85:10
Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.

The bishop was both lawful and gracious. He was keeping the laws. He was obeying the commands of Jesus by loving his neighbors, turning the other cheek, doing mercy, and forgiving freely as he had been freely forgiven by God. He was like the priest Zacharias, who was righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Luke 1:5-6
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Valjean was once a sinner, condemned. He encountered the grace of God. He became gracious as a lawful citizen, showing grace and mercy to others. He was also willing to give up his life to save others.

The cruel policeman, Javert, thought that he was doing the right way according to his faith and belief. He was totally wrong. His zeal and desire for justice and order was right. But his method did not represent the Biblical laws in any way. The laws of God would not imprison a man for five years for stealing bread.

Proverbs 6:30-31
People do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.
Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold;
He may have to give up all the substance of his house.

Javert's pursuit of law and justice was fueled with hatred and self-righteousness. He needed to discover merciful justice that wouldn't imprison people inhumanely or treat widows or orphans with contempt. He needed a law that was more Biblical like the laws God gave to Moses. He needed to experience grace and redemption that were found in the Bible.

In contrast, Valjean's pursuit of law and justice was fueled with love, grace and mercy, doing righteousness God's way. He had discovered merciful justice that would free people from slavery and imprisonment. He also treated widows and orphans with great care and concern. He had experienced grace and redemption that were found in Christ.

Valjean was living as the bishop had inspired - a life that was not under the law. "Not under the law" does not mean no law or lawlessness. It means "above the law."

Matthew 5:21-22
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

Jesus told us what the law of Moses said, and He gave us a law that's better and higher. Please read the whole passage of Matthew 5:21-48 to see what the law said and what Jesus said.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:20:

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Grace is more than the unmerited favor of God. It is also the strengthening and sanctifying power of God at work - turning unrighteous sinners into righteous saints.

True grace in motion involves:

Saving >> Strengthening >> Sanctifying

When we sin, God had sent His Son to die for our sins and gives us abundant life. That's saving grace. The Law of God demands a death penalty for our sins. But the saving grace of God grants us the forgiveness by paying the death sentence in full on our behalf. Fulfilling all the requirements of the Law, it goes further to strengthen us with the power of His Holy Spirit to live the victorious and sanctified Christian life. That's the strengthening and sanctifying grace of God.

Grace does not come to destroy the laws of God but to fulfill them. Whatever the Law requires, grace fulfills them by satisfying every one of its requirements:

Matthew 5:17-18
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Romans 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

The law of sin and death is like the law of gravity. But when we get into an airplane, we move into a higher law even though the same law of gravity is still at work. The acceleration of the airplane exceeds that of gravity, and thus the plane is able to take off. When we minister the grace of God, we are entering into the law of the Spirit of life. We not only fulfill the law and overcome sin and death, we will be able to soar with wings like eagles, taking others on flight with us.

When God gave His laws to His people through Moses, His purpose was divine, offering grace and redemption for His people. The divine laws of God are actually windows wherein we can view and look into the heart of the loving Lawgiver. His amazing grace and awesome love!

The apostle Paul said that God’s law is holy, righteous and good.

Romans 7:12
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

The law of God does not condemn a hungry man to prison for five years for stealing bread. It does not brand such a man as a dangerous criminal for the rest of his life. It also does not include hunting down mercilessly a former petty thief who breaks parole. The law of God also does not favor the rich and despise the poor.

Many Christians often view the Biblical laws in a negative light. Firstly they do not even know the laws of God and what they say. Plain ignorance. And secondly they simply rejected the Biblical laws of God completely without a single thought. Total arrogance and pride. In doing so, they practice lawlessness, and become lawless.

Matthew 7:21-23
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!

A healthy approach to the laws of God is this - going not under but above the laws. Stop doing the don'ts and start doing the dos. Stop doing any wickedness and start doing righteousness as God requires of us.

Romans 8:3-5
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Jesus did not reprove the scribes and Pharisees for their meticulous attempts to keep the laws of God. But He reproved them for breaking the laws of God. They told people to observe and do this and that, but they themselves did not do what they told others to do.

Matthew 23:1-4
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Jesus was rebuking them for neglecting and ignoring God’s divine laws, especially the weightier or more important matters:

Matthew 23:23
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Because of their love for money and power, the scribes and Pharisees oppressed the poor and the weak in favor of the rich and wealthy. The laws and traditions of the scribes and Pharisees were not the same laws God gave to His people!

Valjean was a good example of the true lawkeeper. He upheld the weightier matters, protected the weak, the poor, and the oppressed, and kept the Great Commandments by loving God and others. He was also a great example of true grace. As he was bought and saved by the grace of God, he became gracious and showed grace and mercy to others.

The transformed Valjean is a great example for us to follow.

Sources:
http://www1.cbn.com/movies/les-miserables-and-the-gospel-story
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-web-only/law-and-les-miserables-revisited.html
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/les-miserables-and-the-law-of-god


Written on: 23 May 2016