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 36:1 speaks of “the ungodly” or in some translations “transgression.” Augustine takes this to be a collective class. The ungodly, convinced they can get away with whatever they wish, engage in sin and crime (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321598). He distinguishes this from mere frailty, which would do right but fails. In verse two, it is patently an attempt to deceive God. They do not wish for God to tell them to depart from their sin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321612). Verse three classifies the attitude as a purposeful misunderstanding, persistently pursued in secret, according to verse four. Augustine notes the proper use of secret places is to call out to God, not to plot against Him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321627). In this regard, the person of Psalm 36 is the antithesis to the godly man in Psalm 1. He pursues evil. Citing numerous New Testament passages as well, Augustine rejects this ungodly attitude (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321641).
In contrast, in verse five, God’s mercy and truth are great and heavenly. God’s mercy and provision, according to Augustine, is “partly temporal and partly eternal” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321648). Many of His gifts are available in our temporal lives. Some point us to heavenly gifts, received in eternity. This is the mercy which stretches to the heavens. It is declared by preachers, revealed in God’s Word. Augustine compares this work to the clouds bringing rain (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321655). Likewise, in verse 6, the mountains of God may be compared to preachers who capture the light of God. God’s judgment is like a deep place, an abyss in which something could easily be buried. Augustine takes the sinful attitudes of those who would attempt to deceive God to be so negative that they should be buried forever (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321676).
In Psalm 36:7, the mercy of God which saves man and beast is present. Yet, to Augustine, God’s mercy should be even more accessible to people than to beasts. Verse seven speaks first of man, then of beast, indicating primacy (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321690). The mercy of God’s house, in verse 8, is fulfilling, more than can even be spoken or considered. The idea is that of satiation, not merely sustenance (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321704). This is the joy of the Christian, who can sit in the flood of God’s mercy. Augustine reflects briefly on themetaphors of God’s mercy as a flood, inebriating, washing, and quenching thirst. Knowing God’s will becomes the blessing received by God’s people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321732).
In Psalm 36:11 we pray that God’s opponents “the foot of pride” would not assault us. The call Augustine finds here is one to walk in humility, as God in Christ walked humbly (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321739). Those who walk in iniquity will fall (v. 12), because of their pride. Augustine sees this as a departure from God which will bring failure (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321760). The Psalm ends on the same negative note it had at the start. It is cautionary, that we should give heed to how we walk.