Beth Shan: A Tragic End
Beth Shan is an ancient city in Israel, currently the largest archaeological dig currently in the country. In the days of Jesus and Paul, it was a massive Roman city. It was state-of-the-art, and the worldview there screamed out, “ME!” There were marble columns, mosaic sidewalks, a large theatre, a hippodrome, public baths, etc. This was the Beverly Hills of ancient Israel. Jesus grew up about 12 miles away, but there are no recorded visits. He may have gone that way, though, as Beth Shan was the capital of the Decapolis, a region Jesus did visit.
Beth Shan was a smaller Philistine city in King Saul’s day. It sat at a strategic juncture of Jezreel and the Jordan Valley. According to Joshua 17:11, it was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh, but Israel never took full occupation. This is also where King Saul met his final end. After his tragic death on nearby Mt. Gilboa, the Philistines cut off his head and took his corpse back to the city. There, they nailed his headless body to the walls of Beth Shan (cf. 1 Samuel 31). King Saul had not only been humiliated in life (by his disobedience) but also in death (on the gates of Beth Shan).
The lesson of Saul’s life is clear: disobedience to God has tragic consequences. While David had his own sin issues, he was a man who repented when confronted. Saul did otherwise. Instead of repentance, Saul rationalized his sin (1 Samuel 15). Beth Shan stands as a haunting reminder of the difference in David’s life and Saul’s life. It was Saul’s tragic end.
As we walked through the ruins on our recent trip to Israel, I couldn’t help reflect on the difference between King David and King Saul. May we understand that to rationalize sin will always lead to a tragic end. Instead, let us learn from David: even when we sin big-time, let us seek God in humble repentance (Psalm 51) and find the joy of our salvation all over again. What a powerful lesson!
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor