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 makes it clear, based on Psalm 50:1, that God speaks to his world and that God’s word is sure in every way (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324945). Augustine refers to the phrase, “God of gods,” and interprets it to indicate that he is the true God who can do all things, yet emphasizing the triune nature of the one God. In reference to the Psalms which make references to other gods and even to humans being like gods, Augustine suggests, though in rather indistinct terms, the idea which we would know as communication of attributes, where God imparts some measure of his divine nature, such as his righteousness, to his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324955). Augustine continues, as the Psalm says God has called the earth, to note how God speaks to all the nations in the world. Particularly here, he mentions the African peoples (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324982), possibly because of his African heritage or possibly suggesting he is speaking to Africans. Yet Augustine is clear that in God speaking “from the rising of the sun to its going down” he is removing ethnic boundaries. All in Christ are one and there is no particular group with special favor.
Verse two, in a contrast which Augustine mentions, says that the revelation of God starts in Zion, at Jerusalem, and spreads to all nations (Augustine Psalms, loc. 324991). Augustine sees this as a reference particularly to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection at Jerusalem. The Gospel spread from Jerusalem to all nations (Augustine Psalms, loc. 320996). Augustine considers that Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem and living as a man essentially was his means of hiding his divine glory so as to die for his people. Otherwise, unhidden, he would not have been rejected and killed, thus fulfilling the prophecies (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325006).
In verse three we read that this communicative God, once hidden, makes himself known. He is manifest and will not remain silent. Augustine notes that for now God in Christ seems silent and uncomplaining, allowing people to continue in their evil (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325027). Rather than revealing himself in his wrath, he calls a people to repentance. At some time, he will call his people to repentance and come in judgment, but it is not yet. In the day of judgment, though, Augustine is clear that the unbeliever will not only suffer separation from God, but also some clear punishment. He considers that this should motivate all to turn to God in trust (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325036).
Augustine follows with an allegorical mathematical argument that God raises up many generations of people together. From this apparent digression, he moves into verse four, where God will call heaven from above, to join with the Lord as judge (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325114) In verse five, God’s voice calls to gather the righteous, whom Augustine takes to be angels, though the angels also gather righteous people in turn (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325129). Verse six continues the motif, with heaven declaring God’s righteousness. After this call, in verse seven, Augustine finds us returning to the original theme. God speaks to his people, they are to hear him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325152).
God’s message to his people appears at last in Psalm 50, verse eight. God is not reproving his people because they sacrifice. According to verse nine, the people regularly bring sacrifices to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325167). Despite the fact that the offerings are being made, God says he does not accept them. He already owns everything (v. 10). He also has superior knowledge of all the winged creatures, those acceptable for sacrifice and those not acceptable (v. 11). Augustine recognizes that this shows God’s knowledge and possessions go far beond what humans have (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325191). He even notes that God’s knowledge of creatures existed before the creatures themselves, so God could make them by His command (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325198). Verses 12 and following expand on the idea of the necessity of offerings. Augustine notes that it says very plainly that God doesn’t actually need anything. On the contrary, he describes God as the giver of all, not the receiver (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325214).
Ultimately, Augustine observes, all we are able to give God is praise. In verse 14 the language of sacrifice is used to describe praise to God. Augustine describes this further as very good news. It levels the field for rich and poor. It requires o possessions at all, but a character, which God has given to all (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325229). In the day of trouble (v. 15) we can call upon God. Again, this does not take any earthly resources. We are rescued not by what we have, but by what God has. Augustine goes on to describe trials that are common to all, and the fact that the Lord is the help of all who endure trials (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325245). He even observes that our compassion creates trials for us, as we find needs we cannot meet. This also urges us to call out to God on behalf of those who suffer.
Augustine observes that God calls his people to worship him rightly, offering a genuine sacrifice of praise. It is important to have a pure attitude before God (v. 16). We are to take up the commands of God rightly, though Augustine does leave room for God’s servants to be fallen in nature (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325275). Verse 17 draws a distinction between the one who is fallen and the one who hates instruction. The person who, in verses 17 and following, hates instruction and makes alliances with thieves and adulterers, is not offering praise to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325291). That man, according to verse 19, is not offering praise to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325291). That man, according to verse 19, embraces deceit. He pursues evil rather than the good of the LORD. This pursuit is not only harmful to the neighbors, but also to the man himself. Yet Augustine sees the greater problem, as stated in verse 20, as the damage caused to the brother. That could be seen even as pulling believers away from the Church and their redemption (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325314).
All the while, observing evil, God had not spoken out to bring judgment, according to verse 21. Augustine is clear that God issued warnings, but had not poured out all his displeasure on his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325337). God’s warnings are clear. Those who ignore him should fear. In verse 23, the alternative to fear is genuine praise to God. Those who take up God’s Word with an attitude of praise and honor to God will see God’s salvation. Augustine uses several allusions to the New Testament as illustration of this idea (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325352). Particularly, that salvation of God, says Augustine, is through Christ, the Lord who saves sinners.