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 begins his comments on Psalm 34 with an immediate move into allegory based on the ascription. Here, Christ changed His countenance, making a new priesthood of Melchizedek, moving from the Jews to the Gentiles (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321109). Augustine’s version of the Psalm apparently makes mention of drumming on city doors, which is absent from modern versions. Augustine takes this as an allegory of Christ calling our hearts to be open to Him.
In verse 1, Augustine finds the state of blessing th Lord continually as the attitude of Christ, which should also be the attitude of the Christian (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321116). We bless the Lord when He blesses us, which is continually. Verse 2b speaks of the humble. Augustine emphasizes that it is the humble who realize the Lord’s care for them and give Him thanks (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321129). Additionally, Christ crucified for sinners is a tremendous sign of the Lord’s humility. The humility of the Christian is that of blessing the Lord, not trying to collect glory to ourselves (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321137). Augustine then encourages the reader in his humility. “Consider Who sittenth upon thee. Thou art an ass’s colt, but thou carriest Christ” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321141).
Verse 3 gives encouragement in God’s praise in the corporate life of the Church. We work together for the praise of God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321148). As we seek the Lord, He hears us. Augustine here considers that verse 4 speaks of our inward cry to the Lord and his hearing and responding to us inwardly (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321163). He also observes that all who seek God are heard. Our proper calls to God are in humility, asking His will, rather than ours. Augustine sees this as the difference between “the Jews” and the repentant as they approached Jesus in the Gospels. The Jews wanted their will to be done, while the repentant wanted God’s will (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321178). Again in verse 6, the poor cries out to God, who hears him. The Lord, when we realize our poverty and need, sends His angel (v. 7) to rescue them. Augustine recalls that “The Angel of the Lord” in the Bible is Jesus (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321191). He is the one who comes to rescue his people. Augustine continues to describe how the Christian life and dependence on God goes against our intuition. However, unlike the proud and self-sufficient, God’s humble people have all they need (vv. 9-10). We want to care for ourselves, but this merely interferes with God’s care for us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321213). The people, on the other hand, who are filled with spiritual riches cannot be poor. The gifts of God are worth more than any earthly treasure we could find (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321227).
Verse 11, then, points us to learning the fear of the Lord. If we wish to have life and good days, we turn to the Lord. This good is found as we govern our ways (vv. 13-16) toward pleasing the Lord. We follow His principles in our work (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321241). This is implicit in doing good (v. 14). It is one thing to avoid evil and another to do good. Yet Augustine unapologetically points out that all we do is before the face of the Lord (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321255). This can be compared to God’s work of ongoing sanctification. As God uses our lives for good, so do we as well. Augustine holds this in sharp contrast to the wicked, who, in verse 16, are opposed by God.
In verses 17 and following, the righteous cry out to God and He rescues them. Augustine compares this to the “Three Children” who were delivered from fire and the Martyrs, who were not. All were somehow rescued by God, even if their earthly lives were ended (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321277). The righteous may face many troubles but their end is deliverance. The Lord keeps his people. Augustine finds in verse 20 the statement about unbroken bones to refer to Christ and the Passover Lamb, but also to the idea that the supporting structure of God’s people will not be broken (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321298). God’s promises create a faith which endures. In contrast, verse 21 describes the death of sinners as bad. Augustine affirms that even the wealthy and powerful, such as the rich man in the parable of Lazarus, will die in sorrow if they are not depending on the Lord (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321318). The righteous, trusting in the Lord, will not perish. They will endure.