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 plunges into his comments on Psalm 103 with no prefatory remarks whatsoever. He quotes verse one, "Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me, His holy Name" (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336843, par. 1), then notes that the reference to what is within is not to bodily organs but rather to our inner soul. Augustine goes on to say that, whether aloud or silently, we sing the praises of God all the time (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336859, par. 1). Verse two goes on to say we remember God's rewards. To do this, Augustine says, we must also remember God's condemnation of our sins so we can see his reward of forgiveness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336864, par. 2). In a stark contrast to God's gift to us, Augustine notes that we could never give any worthy gift to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336874, par. 3). All that we actually possess of ourselves is some form of sin. This is not the gift we would give God. What we give to God is the gift which he first gave us.
Again in verse three, the Psalm speaks of God's rewards to us, this time in the form of forgiveness and healing (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336884, par. 4). Augustine notes that God's work of healing is trustworthy. He is never deceived about what we need. This is because of God's intimate knowledge of us. "He knoweth how to restore what He hath made" (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336895, par. 4). Whtever the corruption might be, then, God can redeem us from it (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336899, par. 5). His redemption is even pictured as a crown. Augustine rightly asks why we would be crowned. It is not because of us but because of the gifts God has given us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336914, par. 6).
In our exalted state, our appropriate work, in verse five, is to be satisfied by God's gifts (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336920, par. 7). The satisfaction may differ in some ways, as we are all pleased by various goods. Yet God gives to each as it is appropriate. When will this come, though? The Psalm speaks of a time of restoration, when we will be made young again. Augustine does not find a particular time in the Psalm, but trusts God to acocmplish it (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336930, par. 8). He continues to speak of eagles trimming their beaks on rocks so as to be able to eat. In an allegory, we are rubbed and shaped by Christ, the Rock (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336951, par. 8).
Verse six speaks of the Lord working mercy and judgment for the oppressed. Augustine spaks immediately of theGospel passage of the woman cuaght in adultery (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336951, par. 9). The judges of the woman came to Christ the rock, saw the Law written clearly, and turned away from judgment.
Augustine digresses slightly, speaking of how we show mercy (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336961, par. 10). We do not receive the wicked in his wickedness. We give what it would please God to give, not what would please the sinner. In this way we can show genuine care even for those who would persecute us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336981, par. 11).
Verse seven speaks of God's ways being made known to Moses. Augutine sees this as God's ways of healing and forgiveness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336986, par. 12). Verse eight further emphasizes God's care for his people. Augustine sees this especially shown in God's repeated calls that his people should repent (Augustine Psalms, loc. 336997, par. 13). This patience of God will come to an end (v. 9). Augustine sees our life and the state of the world as variable, based on the decree of God. In Adam we live through trials. But God in Christ has been generous (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337007, par. 14). God has dealt with his people not according to their sins but according to His mercy (vv. 10-11). This can be seen in all creation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337017, par. 15). Verse 12 expands this picture by saying God has taken our sins away as far as east is from west. This allows grace to grow and flourish (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337028, par. 16). Again, in verse 13, this is a sign of God's mercy, which is, in turn, based on God's knowledge of our frailty (v. 14). Augustine points again to the creation of man out of dust, redeemed by the Man from heaven (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337038, par. 18). We flourish, but only in a momentary way, like grass (v.15). In contrast, God is our eternal hope (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337048, par. 19). Verse 16 continues the theme, with man and grass passing away as in a wind.
In contrast to this human frailty, verses 17-18 call us to hope in God, whose mercy does not perish. He gives His reward to all generations (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337058, par. 22). Augustine observes that we keep the memory of God's rewards alive by living, not simply in our minds or with our words.
The importance of God's mercy is great. It is to be remembered everywhere, as it reminds us of Christ's throne in heaven, from where he gives gifts (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337069, par. 23). Verses 20 and following call God's servants to bless His name. In every way and in every place God is worthy of praise. This, Augustine says, is why the Psalm begins and ends in the same way, with God's praise (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337085, par. 26).