Summary: David and his men were exhausted when they came back to their encampment to find their women and children taken away captive. With no strength, how could they pursue?
Verse 1 of Psalm 4 appears to be a reference to Psalm 18, written about David’s desperate situation at the time of his fight with the Amalekites. His wives and children, and the families of all his soldiers had been taken captive.
"Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer." (Psalm 4:1)
In Psalm 18, that same phrase is used, and we can see exactly what this “enlarging” was:
“Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.” (Psalm 18:36-39)
If we read the account of the battle in 1 Samuel 30, we see that David had literally no strength left to chase after his enemies, having only just returned from another battle front. So much was the fatigue in evidence that many of his men were physically unable to continue. Thus David requested of God:
“shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them?”
It’s not that he was asking permission, but that he was asking for God’s help to do so. He knew he had no strength to do this, but the need for action to save his family remained. What would you do if it were you?
We know from other passages of scripture that God on occasion gave supernatural speed or strength to His servants, and adding these two Psalms and the account in Samuel together, we can clearly see that this was the case here. This explains David’s specific wording: shall I pursue? In other words, will you give me strength to get back on the road? Shall I overtake them? In other words, will You give me speed or slow my enemies down?
Question 1: Can you find other occasions where God helped David with strength, speed or skill?
Question 2: Do you think God would help you like this if you really needed it? What scripture would you use to back up your opinion?
Rob de Jongh is the author of the book "Food for thought in Psalms" by Woodland Press