The roads were narrow, forcing our buses to slowly maneuver through the winding streets. Modern apartments lined the street with shops interspersed along the way. Pedestrians strolled the walkways barely giving our entourage a momentary glance as we invaded their neighborhood.
A sharp right turn led our convoy down a one way drive. Ahead we could see the trees opening up and a long wall with the words “Welcome” in several foreign languages. Our guides herded us all in the same direction.
With tickets purchased in advance, 800 of us passed through the gates and filed into an ancient amphitheater. The stone seats were massive and hard to sit on. Steps to our rows seemed to remind us that crowds had poured into this arena centuries ago to be spectators of thespian travel troupes and live entertainment that would test our modern imagination
This was Beit She’an National Park. Here archaeologists were excavating an ancient city which is one of the most beautiful and impressive ruins in the country. Thousands of years old this city was built, conquered, rebuilt and conquered again by the Egyptians, Philistines, Romans and Assyrians. In its zenith over 30,000 people called this place home.
In the background is a tel, the abandoned ruins of a city on a hill. There the old walled fortifications can still be seen. The Philistines hung the body of King Saul on those stone walls out of sheer disrespect for the nation of Israel.
On this trip in the center for old-time amusement, our band of Christian pilgrims had a worship service. We lifted the name of Jesus on high. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was our audience of one.
In the middle of a location where foreign conquerors and natural earthquake disasters have left their indelible marks, we now left the sounds of our voices and deeply personal prayers. God who allows wicked men to do their dark deeds on good people may seem for a moment to have won a victory over God and His people have only delayed their eternal judgment.
This God who always keeps His promises if not for the present generation, then surely for future generations, is 100% consistent with His Word. Those of us who are blessed to walk these ancient marketplace streets marvel at what once was the pride of a people long ago who now have nothing but broken stone to mark their presence. Yet, the people of the one true God thrive and hope for tomorrow, a most comforting remedy for a needy world.
photo credit: brucefong photography