Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
Augustine takes the ascription of Psalm 73 to be a note of sorrow. English versions typically observe that Psalm 72 is the last of a collection of Psalms of David. But Augustine takes it as a statement of failure, not merely conclusion, and applies it to this Psalm rather than to the space between two Psalms (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330649). The hymns of David the son of Jesse ran out. Yet Augustine sees that the song of God would continue as David, here called the “son of Jesse” is prophetically the one from whom the Christ is to come. While the hymns were hidden they will be revealed later (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330660). The history of Israel, reviewed briefly by Augustine, frequently shows God providing for his people by means of one being raised up in place of another. Finally, Asaph is named the Psalmist. His name is a reference to a synagogue, when translated to Greek and then Latin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330680). Augustine observes that the apostles came out of the synagogue, showing us how to worship God.
Verse one proclaims that God is good to those right in heart. Augustine adds that God doesn’t seem good to those of a wicked heart. They find him fearsome (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330711). In contrast, in verse two, the Psalmist’s feet were almost moved. This indicates to Augustine a time when the Psalmist’s heart is not right (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330720). The distraction to the Psalmist, in verses three and four, is that the wicked seem to have peace and that they are able to scourge their enemies. This builds the pride of the wicked, who disguise their evildoing with the power they have (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330739). Augustine notes that the poor commit crimes out of need. The wealthy engage in crimes but refuse to explain themselves. “They declare war with their teachers and reprovers, and become enemies of them that speak the truth, having been long accustomed to be coaxed with the words of flatterers, being of tender ear, of unsound heart” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330743). Thos who would take others’ goods are too proud to receive correction. Augustine uses this idea to call his readers to consider their own lives (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330754). In verse eight, the wicked speak evil openly, e en speaking against heaven (v. 9). They have set themselves against God in this (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330774). Augustine considers this sheer folly.
In verse 10 there is a return or regathering of God’s people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330785). Augustine takes this fulfillment of the days to be in Christ, born at the fullness of time. Verses 11-12 depict the wicked being surprised that God notices them and can take action. Augustine observes that the loss of the wicked is very grave (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330795). Yet the confrontation of the wicked man by God leads him to repentance. He is being corrected by God. Augustine concludes that God is active in distinguishing between good and evil, guiding us through the Scripture (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330816).
Verse 17 turns us to meditate on the good justice of God. We find good and fulfillment as we look to God as the author of good (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330847). Those who look to their own deceit receive deceit in return. God allows even desolation (v. 19) to come upon the wicked who have rejected God. Their riches, reputation, and even their health and life are illusory (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330868). Verse 21 explains that we are ruled by what delights us. If we are led away from God our lives may be brought to nothing, even becoming as wild beasts before God (v. 23). However, in all this, Augustine sees that we might not actually depart from God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330889). Rather, we are held by God and drawn back to Him. This results in the question of verse 25. What do we have aside from God? Nothing. Though all our earthly powers fail (v. 26) we still look to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330910).
It is clear to the Psalmist and to Augustine that some people depart from God and simply pursue the world and the devil. They will not be brought back. But those of an unstable faith are still holding to God. He draws these to himself (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330930).