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 observes that Psalm 85 “speaks of things future as if already done, because with God that which is future has already taken place” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333248, par. 2). Even when the people of Israel were in captivity to other nations, and remained in captivity to sin, their deliverance could be spoken of as complete. Further, the deliverance spoken of in verse two is due to forgiveness. Therefore, Augustine calls his readers to confess their captivity so as to be made free (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333262, par. 3). So in verse three God turns from His anger and in verse four He turns us from sin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333268, par. 4).
Verse five continues to speak directly to God, asking Him not to remain angry forever. Augustine ties this idea directly to the Fall in Genesis 3, concluding that death and the fallen nature of the world is a result of God’s righteous anger (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333275, par. 5). The anger of God, he sees, has passed away in Christ, who makes humans immortal by mercy. This is the confession of verse six, that God will turn us “and make us alive.” Augustine very clearly says,
Not as if we ourselves of our own accord, and without Thy mercy, turn unto Thee, and then Thou shalt make us alife: but so that not only our being made alive is from Thee, but our very conversion, that we may be made alive” (Augustine Psalms, lo). This he sees as our eternal life, which never perishes. Salvation (v. 7) is a gift of God alone.
In verse eight, God responds that He will listen. As a response, then, Augustine says that God has spoken through Christ, who speaks peace (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333315, par. 7). The peace and refreshment of God in Christ is the only refreshment which is not eventually wearisome. In verse nine, the Psalm continues by saying that God’s salvation is near for those who fear God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333341, par. 8). Augustine sees the person to whom the people prayed as the difference. It is only God in Christ who responds to our fearful prayers by giving us peace and including us in God’s kingdom (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333354, par. 8). This is where, in verse 10, mercy and truth meet one another. In verse 11, then, when truth is pictured as springing from the earth, Augustine finds Christ, born of a woman, born of the flesh (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333373, par. 10). Likewise, truth, born of the earth, tells us that we are sinful. For this reason, we confess our sin and God pours out righteousness from heaven (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333386, par. 11). This is the sweetness which God gives the land in verse 12. Again, in verse 14, God directs His people in the way of righteousness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 333406, par. 13).