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.
As he begins to comment on Psalm 44, Augustine makes an immediate allegorical leap. “Korah is equivalent to the word baldness, and we find in the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified in ‘the place of a skull.’ It is clear then that this Psalm is sung to the ‘sons of His Passion’” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323598). From this point, Augustine continues with the assumption that the Psalm is a way to hear from martyrs. The subscription further matches that of Psalm 22, which Jesus cited from the cross. Augustine takes the forsakenness of the cross not to apply directly to Jesus but to us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323605).
Verses 1-2 speak of the message we have heard about God’s work, establishing nations and also casting them out. Despite the past history, Augustine observes that the Psalmist expresses a feeling of forsakenness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323614). Augustine suggests that perhaps the Israelites thought their ancestors were superior in strength or courage. However, verse 3 says clearly they received blessings not because of their ability but as a gift of God. All deliverance, even a sense of God’s presence, is to be seen as something miraculous (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323621) As another possible explanation, Augustine asks whether God has changed. But verse 4 identifies God as the King (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323629). The king who created all does not change. Though we get only a partial picture of God, and will wait for the future when we see Him face to face, Augustine does not find our picture of God changing (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323637).
Though the Psalmist recognizes his ancestors seemed to have more blessing than he does, still he has hope, expressed in verse 5. There will be a future time for the removal of God’s enemies (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323652). God’s salvation, in verses 6 and 7, is good for the past and the future. There is a type of boasting in God which is right and lasts all day (v. 8).
What is the state of God’s people, in light of God’s character? In verse 9, the Psalmist expresses being “put to shame” by God. Augustine is clear that there have been times when Christians have been outcasts (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323668). It is easy for God’s people to think, as the Psalm expresses in verses 9-14, that God has discarded His people. They have been spoiled, consumed by other nations, sold, and scorned. Augustine even says that enemies of Christ in his time wished Christians to die as Christ did (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323684). Verses 15-16 make it clear that these attitudes bring pain to the Psalmist. After enough mistreatment it is hard to see how God has worked by His glory (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323699).
Augustine’s conclusion is that the grace of God is given freely, so the world gets to see that Christ’s people worship him voluntarily, even in hard times. Verses 17 and following speak to the trust the Psalmist has in God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323707). It is a confidence that in fact God has not abandoned His people. The process of humbling (vv. 18-19) is a way that God prepares His people to trust Him, thus avoiding the eternal death of God’s condemnation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323723).
Verses 20-21 point out that God is able to search out His people. He also imparts wisdom and knowledge of Himself to them. Augustine notes that our realization of the person of God is glad news indeed (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323731). Even when, as in verse 22,, God’s people arep ut to death, He is able to redeem them. This has given many who were imprisoned and even killed for their faith a great hope. So, in verse 23, the Psalmist calls on the Lord to awaken (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323746). It is not as if God actually sleeps, but we call for the Lord to raise up His body from death, as if from sleep, and work His will (Augustine Psalms, loc. 323754). We desire not to be bowed down and feel forgotten (vv. 24-25) but to be raised up by the risen Lord (v. 26). This, Augustine concludes, is not for our sake but for the sake of God’s Name.