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 reflects on Psalm 41 on the day of the feast of Martyrs, recognizing Christ as “the Captain of Martyrs, who spared not Himself, ordering His soldiers to the fight; but first fought, first conquered, that their fighting He might encourage by His example, and aid with His majesty, and crown wit hHis promise” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323143). Augustine goes on to explain that at times Jesus speaks of himself and of Christians as if they are one. Augustine considers this as the relationship of head and body.
Augustine’s sermon proper begins at verse five. Here, the enemies expected the Psalmist to die and his name to perish. Here Augustine finds not only reference to the Lord but also to Christians, whose opponents expect to be promptly forgotten (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323150). Augustine observes that Jesus’ followers multiplied. The raging against Christ and His people was common among the Pagans, yet the Christians have multiplied. Yet Augustine finds that the enemies of Christ still expect His people to be forgotten (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323165).
From this foundation, Augustine returns to verse one, noting that the day of judgment will come, and it will be a day of evil for those who do not understand the needy (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323165). God’s people are called to investigate and understand the poor. Augustine compares this to looking at Christ, who, though humble, is the hiding place of countless riches. As we consider the Christ, we can understand human need as well, for we see privation and need. In verse two, we seek to protect the needy from the hand of the enemye, here understood not as an earthly enemy but none other than the devil (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323181). In verse three, Augustine pursues a divine perspective. When we ask that the Lord would help someone, we might not see that help immediately. It may not be until eternal life. However, God’s promise is valid (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323196). God’s help is often found as we turn to God in faith even in the mundane affairs such as work and rest with our family. God shows HIs provision in all.
Despite our trust in the Lord, Augustine observes that our lives will still be difficult. In verse four we labor and are still guilty before God. We receive chastisement, but we are reminded that Jesus, with no guilt of his own, was scourged on our behalf (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323211). We endure the evil all around us. Our enemies speak against us (verse seven). This evil speech is all aimed, as we saw in verse five, at erasing the memory of Christ and His people from our world. It is ultimately speaking against Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323227). They wish even to kill Christ and take all his inheritance. They do not realize that Christ could lay his life down and take it up again. Even those close to Christ would turn on him (verse nine). Augustine sees this as a direct reference to the betrayal of Judas (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323243).
In verse 10 again the plea for mercy is made. When we are surrounded by evil and folly we need God’s mercy. Again Augustine sees the height of folly in the idea that by killing Jesus he would be made to go away and not come back (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323251). On the contrary, as described in verse 11, God’s favor kept the enemies from triumphing over Christ. He was upheld as the innocent one (verse 12). Augustine concludes that the Christ, the innocent one, being weak for a time was made strong as the savior. He thus concludes his comments on this Psalm by calling God’s people to hear Jesus’ name and the prophecies in God’s Word.