jagged rocks everywhere. Nothing but desert. At one point, our guide had the bus driver pull the bus over and come to a stop. And then he had us look out the windows of the bus. What we saw was almost terrifying. There were only a few inches between the tires of our bus and the edge of the cliff. The rocks and the cliffs cast great shadows across the valley below. And then he said, “Behold! the valley of the shadow of death!”

Then he told us the history of this road. It was this same road Jesus told about in his parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by thieves and nearly killed. And had it not been for a kind Samaritan he surely would have died. In Jesus’ day, bands of robbers used to hide in the clefts of those rocks, waiting for unsuspecting travelers to come by, whom they would waylay and rob and leave for dead. The valley of the shadow of death is a frightening place.

Do you know what it is to fear? to be afraid? to be uncertain about tomorrow? to be worried about problems or situations or people? Of course you do. We all do. And yet the Bible is clear: we need not fear in the valley of the shadow of death!

Why? Because, as David declared: “For Thou art with me!”

You see that is the key to peace in the face of life’s dangers: to recognize that through it all, God is with us... to trust in God’s presence, and in his protection.

Psalm 23 contains a curious image at this point. David writes: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.” At first glance this image seems strangely out of place. What does a feast have to do with God’s protection?

What it has to do is this: eating is a picture of peace. Have you ever tried to eat when you are worried, or sick at heart, or afraid? For some reason food loses its attraction when we are worried and afraid. Our stomachs are taut, our adrenaline is rushing. And the last things our bodies want to do when we are afraid, is to sit down and eat something. That’s why people lose their appetite when danger assails.

David is saying that even in the face of fearsome situations, we have a calm inside, a sense of tranquility and peace, that lets us enjoy the feast of God’s love. Someone has said that “peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of God.”

Finally, Psalm 23 expresses confidence in A GOD OF PROMISE. David exclaimed: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God is more than a God who provides. He is more than a God who protects. He is a God who makes all of life -- both present and future -- a wonderful thing. He is a God of Promise.

Jesus spoke of us having an abundant life. “I have come,” he said, “that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” That’s what David was describing when he wrote: “Surely goodness