Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 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 identifies Psalm 70 as bearing “the voice of men troubled, and so indeed of Martyrs amid sufferings in peril, but relying on their own Head” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329830). For this reason, as we read and hear this Psalm we have sympathy even if our suffering is different from that of David when writing th Psalm. Christians endure suffering for their faith, and there are similarities in different times and places.
In verse one the cry is for immediate help. This is the call of Christ on his behalf to Saul (why do you persecute me?”) and for all Christians who are under Jesus’ protection (“What you have done to the least of Mine, you do to me” ). Augustine conceives of Jesus as taking affront at the sins committed against his people as against himself (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329851). The response of the Martyr is to pray that persecutors would be confounded. Augustine observes that when opponents of the Gospel get their way they become stronger, bolder, and confident, but when they do not get their way they are weakened and finally defeated (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329862).
Augustine identifies a pattern in the history of persecutions. He sees this to accord with verse two, saying, “At first there was the assault of them persecuting, ow there hath remained the malice of them thinking” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329872). He describes a “roar of persecutors” even in times of peace.
Verse three identifies a second type of persecutor, the one who flatters. Augustine observes that flattery can bring out evil desires in the one flattered (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329894). Regardless of the nature of the opposition, Augustine sees it rightly countered by looking to God in hope. Seeking God rather than seeking our own good is the biblical pattern. Augustine points out the idea of sheep following their shepherd (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329904). Verse five expresses our poverty and the need to turn to God. Augustine takes our poverty to be primarily in our sinful failure to trust God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329936).
The conclusion of Psalm 70 again confesses that God is our helper whom we need at every time. The call to God is urgent (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329946). It confirms that the life of God’s people is one of looking to Him in faith.