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.
“Psalm 49, Part 1”
Augustine jumps into the Christological significance of Psalm 49 immediately. Verse one addresses not only those present, but all nations. Augustine sees the fulfillment of that in the Church, which speaks the Psalm to all nations. Further, the command to ponder the significance is akin to Jesus’ call, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324627). Augustine sees the call becoming even more emphatic, as in verse two it speaks to “earthborn” and “sons of men,” whom he considers respectively as those engaged by earthly values and those held by Jesus, the Son of Man (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324635). Likewise, the “rich” are the earthborn and the “poor” are the sons of men. Augustine goes farther by asserting that those who “eat and worship’ are the earthborn, because they are not satisfied and are not genuinely humane.
In verse three, all nations are to hear the wisdom of God. Augustine sees the repetition involving both the mouth and heart speaking as a sign of the importance of the message (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324650). He also finds that the wisdom of God is not a strictly rationalistic matter, as verse four addresses it as a parable, something sung to accompaniment. Augustine here refers to the dual nature of the Christian, who sees “through a glass darkly” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324658).
Verse five speaks to the needlessness of fear. Augustine observes that we do not fear what we cannot escape, a singularly counter-intuitive idea (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324673). The problem is relieved in that the means of escape is not in what we can do, but in Christ, our escape. The condemnation comes through trusting ourselves, as Augustine asserts Eve did, resulting in her fall (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324689).
The identity of those who slip is found in verse six - those “who trust in their virtue, and in the abundance of their riches do glory” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324689). Augustine again emphasizes that finding glory in God preserves us from slipping and falling. On the contrary, Augustine takes verses seven and eight to refer to the man who trusts his own glory. Even Christ the brother will not redeem that one. He will not give God propitiation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324704). Yet Augustine again affirms that those trusting God will receive heavenly riches, according to Jesus’ promise. Augustine finds this pattern to continue in verse nine. Those who consider the things of this world as ultimate will work and strive for those things, though they pass away (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324727). Augustine illustrates the concept of verse nine by use of Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Verse 10 gives further emphasis, in that the man who glories in himself does not see death for what it is. According to Augustine, he doesn’t even recognize that others are dying all around him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324743).
Augustine continues to discuss the distinction between the earthly but imprudent man who thinks he is looking out for himself and the Christian who gives himself away and is actually saving his life (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324765). The monumental gains we can have, in possessions and memorials, are not worthwhile in the final analysis. They end up in tombs (v. 11), along with their owners, without the eternal dwelling of the Christian. Verse 12 describes those who glory in themselves as senseless beasts. Augustine again says people should not wind up in this state, because God has revealed himself in Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324796). The end of the unbeliever, in verse 13, is to bring offense upon himself, but not on the Christian. The Christian can endure the scorn of others and still turn to God in hope (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324811).