Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Col, 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 finds in Psalm 45 a central theme of change, which he ties to the concept of the change of the world as people are called to Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323788). He mentions the change from paganism to Christianity and from the old man to the new. The Psalm itself presents a narrative of a marriage, which Augustine quickly associates with the idea of the Church as the bride of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323795).
Verse one speaks of “a good word” spoken to the King. Augustine notes that different commentators question whether this is the speech of God the Father. When God brings forth “the Word” he is speaking of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323826). Augustine goes on to observe that all God’s creation is implicit in this word, as God creates by means of Christ, the living Word. Continuing with the theme of a word, the Psalmist goes on to speak of his tongue as a pen. Augustine suggests this is significant of the permanence of the written word as opposed to a spoken message (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323850).
In verse two, the bridegroom is announced as “fairer than the children of men” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323857). Augustine notes that the Chris t is the man but is fairer because of God’s grace. He then reviews the idea of verses one and two briefly.
Verse three speaks of God’s “sword” which Augustine takes to mean His “word.” It is by God’s word that he makes sharp distinctions between people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323889). Augustine goes on to speak of the “thigh” on which the sword is girded as the flesh, the human heritage which carried the promise of God from Abraham to Christ. In the end, Augustine identifies Jesus as the subject of verse four, proceeding to reign (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323897). Further, Jesus is the one with truth, meekness, and righteousness in abundance. Augustine uses numerous passages of Scripture as illustration. In the end of verse four, Jesus is also the one who can lead himself on with his right hand.
Verse five speaks of sharp arrows. Augustine takes these arrows in the hearts of enemies to be the conviction of God and the condemnation of God’s Law addressed to unbelievers (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323921).
In verse six the Psalm shifts to speak of God’s throne. The throne that lasts forever is the throne of grace, not that of the Law. Augustine observes that because it is God’s throne and God is eternal, it must last forever. His sceptre, likewise, reflects God’s character. Augustine’s reading is a “sceptre of direction” while many English versions call it as “sceptre of righteousness” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323936). People, bent upon disputing with God, need God’s righteous directions. God’s will is right. Augustine understands our will as crooked and unworthy of correcting God. Rather, in verse seven, Augustine finds we need correction because of wickedness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323953). He briefly develops the theme of correction as a call to repentance which must be heeded. Augustine is clear that we recognize God’s mercy. However, it is not raw mercy. “For mercy cannot strip Him of His attribute of justice: nor justice of that of mercy” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323961). The mercy shows very sharply to Augustine in the middle of verse seven, where he observes the text says God has anointed God. He explains this to be a reference to Christ, the anointed one, who did not reject huanity though He was divine (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323976). Augustine ties this identification of Christ to the stone on which Jacob rested his head and which he later anointed with oil. Here he sees Israel recognizing the Chirst, though Israel wrestled with Christ, allegorically foreshadowing the death of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323991). The scented garments of verse eight likewise speak both to Jesus’ anointing and to the woman who could reach out to touch Jesus’ garment and be healed. Augustine refers also to the savor of life to those who believe (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324007). The overall picture is that of a royal palac and a king acting for the good of His people.
This brings Augustine and the Psalmist, in verses 9-10, to the queen at the right hand of the king (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324038). The right hand is the place of favor. The queen is dressed in fine garments. She may have come from afar, like the Gentiles who hear and believe Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324054). The queen here, in verse 11, is greatly desired by the king. Augustine again sees this as foundational in God’s salvation, as He is the one who calls people to himself. Augustine continues to illustrate God’s salvation by noting different Gentiles whom he called to himself.
Verse 13 speaks to the beauty of the “royal daughter, the redeemed, beautiful from within” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324093). Augustine observes that the Church has been seen as beautiful by God, who makes him beautiful from inside out. It brings gladness to all who approach, even causing a generational shift in verse 16. Rather than looking to the glory of the fathers, who Augustine recognizes as the apostles, we look a t the children who will continue the spread of Christ’s kingdom (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324108). The Psalm ends with this hope of a glorious and eternal future.