Run

Run

Psalm 16

Ryan Tedder, the front man and co-founder of OneRepublic, is the genius behind most of the band’s success.  Tedder was raised by extended family that consisted of missionaries and pastors, and it is through his upbringing in the church that his musical roots can be traced; in fact, one of the songs released on a previous album is about his grandfather titled, “Preacher.” 

Having learned to play piano at just three years old, his love for music only grew and developed throughout his life.  Tedder once admitted in an interview that he would sing at least two hours a day and enjoyed imitating his favorite artists, such as The Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, and Sting.  While growing up, Tedder honed his musical talents by performing in church, school, and with various bands.  Needless to say, music was a very important part of Ryan Tedder’s life.

Tedder moved to Colorado Springs in his senior year where he attended Colorado Springs Christian School.  It was there Tedder met his future band mate, Zach Fillkins, on the soccer team they played on together.  After he graduated from High School, Tedder attended Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma where he graduated with a Bachelor in Science in Public Relations and Advertising. 

When interviewed by the Houston Chronicle in 2008, Tedder was asked, “You were raised by an extended family of missionaries and pastors.  Has that played into your music?”  To which Tedder replied:

I got offered a Christian record deal.  I’m Christian, I grew up in church.  But I’m not going to tour churches.  I was raised in Oklahoma.  Tulsa’s like the buckle of the Bible Belt.  I grew up in that environment.  I was in Nashville for two years, (and) I quickly became friends with probably half a dozen of some of the biggest Christian recording artists.  Every single one of them was absolutely miserable with the fact that they were “Christian” recording artists.  I saw some stuff in Nashville that turned my stomach.  Some of the most pretentious, insecure people I ever met were Christian recording artists.”

Tedder is not afraid nor ashamed of his Christian roots, but he has made it very clear that although he is a Christian, he is not a Christian artist. 

Throughout his career, Tedder has produced and written music for other artists.  However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Onerepublic debuted their first official album, Dreaming Out Loud.  The album received mixed to mediocre reviews. However, when Timbaland (an American record producer, songwriter, and rapper) was given permission to remix one of the songs on Onerepublic’s Dreaming Out Loud album, “Apologize, it became a smash hit. This launched Tedder and his band to become a global phenomenon.  The remixed version of “Apologize” peaked number one globally, remained on the Billboard Top 100 for eight consecutive weeks, sold over 5 million copies, and was the #1 song in sixteen countries.

Since then, the band has released three other studio albums, have been nominated for all kinds of awards for their music, and their music video “Run” has had over 19 million views since it debuted on May 1, 2021.  In an interview with the UK newspaper The Sun, Tedder said that he wrote “Run” after the news of COVID started to scare him, yet he desired to not become paralyzed by bad news.  Tedder’s advice to his fans is this: “Chase whatever it is you want because life goes quick.  I’m constantly doing things that scare me and chasing new experiences and goals.  In that chase, I’m having fun because I’m living.”  One of the stanzas in the song is the heart of Tedder’s message to his fans:

They tell you that the sky might fall
They’ll say that you might lose it all
So I run until I hit that wall
Yeah, I learned my lesson, count my blessings
Look to the rising sun and run, run, run

On one level, I agree with Tedder that we can’t allow what scares us to paralyze us into despondency and immobility.  Everything about us is made to experience life and to be mobile.  Permit me to share with you why I believe Tedder is right to encourage his fans move past their fears:[1]

  • Chronic fear can impair the brain’s ability to store long-term memories and result in damage to some parts of the brain and make it more difficult to regulate fear so that your state of fear increases instead.
  • Long-term fear can cause the deterioration of brain cells that can further lead to clinical depression, fatigue, and PTSD.
  • Fear releases stress hormones that slow or shut down your bodily functions including your gut which can inhibit your immune system. 
  • Living in a constant state of fear can lead to gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, decreased fertility, accelerated aging, and heart disease.[2]

Fear, like other emotions, cannot be easily shut off like a light switch, but it can be put in check.  Did you know that when David wrote Psalm 16, he most likely wrote it while fleeing for his life from King Saul who wanted to kill him?  I do not think the answer to overcoming our fears over some of the bigger threats like COVID is to “run, run, run…”.  I believe you need something that is bigger than pandemics, death, or global sorrows that you can run to.  Psalm 16 gives us a pathway for who we can run to.

There is Joy in the LORD to be Experienced (vv. 1-4)

“Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.”  Some think that because David began his Psalm this way and that this is a Psalm about protection.  I think that David began his Psalm this way not as a request, but as something he was confident God would do because of verses 10-11, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  I will come back to verses 10-11 a little later in this sermon. 

Why will God Preserve me as I take refuge in him?  Because he is for me and not against me. What David says in verse 2 is so fascinating to me: “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Did you notice the difference in the way LORD is used in all caps versus the way it is spelled the second time it is used?  Is this a typo? Did the person setting the type hit “caps lock” by accident?  Nope!  What you see happening in verse 2 is deliberate.  When LORD is spelled with all caps, it is done so to highlight that God’s covenantal and most personal name (Yahweh) is being used.  When David refers to God as Lord a second time, he is using a different name used for God, and that name is Adonai, which means “sovereign one.” 

Why is it that David has no good apart from God?  Because he is the covenant keeping God who is sovereign over his life.  As Yahweh, God does not lie, he does not fail, and he keeps his promises out of his great love for his people.  As Adonai, God does not take naps, he never has a plan “B”, and when he says that he is going to do something, he does it because there is nothing above him or equal to him.  This is why David is able to say with confidence: “Yahweh is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places…” (vv. 5-6a). 

The reason why David delights is being around the “saints in the land” (v. 3), is because they are able to relate to what David has experienced with Yahweh as his refuge.  It is the saints in the land who are contrasted with “those who run after another god…” (v. 4a).  The saints delight in the God who is for his people and it is in their regular company that David’s soul is encouraged.  What David says in verse 3 is the Old Testament equivalent of what is written in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23–25).

What David understood is what every other saint in the Bible understood, and that is this: If you cut yourself off from the fellowship of the saints you will shrivel and dry up spiritually.  What is also true is that if your only community that you hang with are “those who run after another god…” you will shrivel and dry up spiritually because the god that they chase after leads only to death.  Listen.  We need God and we need to be with his people.

There is a Security in the LORD to be Had Presently (vv. 5-8)

Since Yahweh is David’s Adonai, it makes sense that as the one true God, he is David’s chosen portion and cup. In other words, God is able to meet and satisfy all that he needs.  David does not stop there, but continues: “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, I have a beautiful inheritance” (v. 6).  Remember where David is when he wrote this Psalm; he is in hiding because the king of Israel was seeking to kill him to prevent him from ever becoming king.  The point David is making here is that because God is his refuge, his portion, and his cup, he understands that it is God who gives what is his right to give.  In the case of Israel, the land was God’s in the first place, so it is God’s to give.  This is why David was able to say, while in hiding: “indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (v. 6).

What mattered most to David was not the physical inheritance that belonged to his family, but the God who would never leave him or forsake him.  What was it that guided David?  The answer was already given to us in the first chapter: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:1–3).  In verse 7, David condenses Psalm 16 into two verses: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:7–8).

David understood that the best thing he could offer himself and those he would eventually serve as king, is the God whose counsel leads to life instead of death.  The point that must not be missed here is this: In order for David to experience God as his refuge, his portion, his counselor, and his right hand is that he had to pursue God as his refuge, his portion, his counselor, and his right hand.  In other words, David was not passive in his relationship with God, but active.  If you want to discover God as your refuge in a crazy, turbulent, and upside-down world, you must not sit by passively but seek the Yahweh the way described by the prophet Isaiah: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7).

There is a Promise from the LORD to be Held onto for the Future (vv. 9-11)

If God is my refuge and it is he who preserves me; if he is the source of my life and joy and the one who holds my lot as Adonai; if it is Yahweh who gives me counsel through his word and instructs me through the dangers of night, then I know that it is the covenant keeping, sovereign God who is for me and not against me!  So, when we finally come to verse 9, David responds in light of these truths about his God: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh dwells secure” (v. 9). 

If David stopped at verse 9, we would think that this Psalm was complete and encouragement enough to press on confidently in the midst of a pandemic to fight against our fears.  However, David does not end his psalm with verse 9, but concludes it with verses 10-11!  David continues with a conjunctive! David begins verse 10 with “For…” because he is about to explain how it is that he is able to run, run, run to God as his refuge.  Here it is: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” 

Do you see the irony in verse 10 in light of everything else that David said in verses 1-9? At the very least, David believes that the grave will not be the end for him. Keep in mind that David had no tangible example of a future resurrection like we have with Jesus, yet he was confident that in light of God’s faithfulness, love, and commitment to him that he would not abandon him in the grave.  For David, there was more than the land of his fathers!  James Boice, commented on these verses: “How did David get to this point? There is only one answer. It was by the logic of faith. He reasoned that if God had blessed him and kept him in this life, then God, who does not change, would undoubtedly keep him and bless him in the life to come.”[3]

If you feel that these verses sound strangely familiar, you are right in feeling that way.  Peter, in his great sermon delivered at Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection said something that startled all who heard him preach that day:

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:29–32)

I do not think that when David wrote verse 10, that he was thinking of Jesus necessarily, but the Holy Spirit who was guiding and inspiring him as he wrote those words certainly was thinking of Jesus. 

The reason why David could run to God, experience joy in God in the midst of his present circumstances, and have a confidence that could weather death itself was because God would not abandon him.  The reason for this was something that David was unable to see completely, but it would be one from his blood line.  He would be greater than David and would suffer death by hanging on a cross for our sins and slay death by rising from the grave on the third day so that all who would seek refuge in him would experience a resurrection like his: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

It was because David knew that God would not abandon him even after death, that he could write: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Or as the apostle Paul wrote:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword….? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)

Amen!


[1] Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD, “How Worrying Affects the Body.” Web MD; September 12, 2020

[2] Christiane Northrup, M.D., “Why Fear is bad for your health” (https://www.drnorthrup.com/habits-resilient-healthy-people).

[3] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (p. 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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