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 in Psalm 79:1, what was yet to come is spoken of as something present. The Psalmist speaks to God about the Gentiles receiving an inheritance from God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332337). Augustine sees this as indicative of God’s knowledge of all things, regardless of their timing.
Verses 2-3 speak of terrible destruction and defilement. Augustine takes this to be a reference to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, yet centuries in the future when the Psalm was written (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332350). While Augustine sees many people who are inheritors of God’s promises and also many who rejected God’s promises and brought shame to him, he still looks to the climactic fulfillment of righteousness in Christ and of desolation in the sack of Jerusalem. The city, in verse four, becomes a reproach to its neighbors. Augustine is quick to add, however, that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332405). God has not rejected his faithful, even if they are slaughtered by their enemies.
In a time of desolation, we cry out, with the Psalmist in verse five, asking how long God’s anger will be upon us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332416). This is both a cry of desolation and a prayer of hope. After all, there is hope that God will restore His people. Augustine observes that God’s anger and jealousy differ from that of men. God is always righteous, so his angerdoes not have the violent aspect of the emotions of humans (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332426). So in verse six, the plea for God to act is a prayer for God’s righteous judgment, which was accomplished in Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332436). The Christians of the first century were certainly harmed by the enemies of God, and in Christ God has judged those enemies.
Even as the Psalmist asks that God would judge the unrighteous, verse eight expresses guilt and asks for God’s mercy (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332461). According to verse ten the mercy of God seems to protect God’s reputation among the nations. Augustine sees this as a common theme in Scripture, as God has chosen people and needs to be known as the God who cares for those chosen people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332477). The saints of God do suffer. Augustine will not deny it. However, the suffering and bondage they endure is for the good of God’s people. It is also the result of living in a sin-cursed world, which Jesus has overcome (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332507). The frailty we endure will eventually pass away.
Verse 13 then speaks of God returning to people what they need in full measure, figured here as “seven times so much” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 332522). This is a typical sign of completeness. God will give the entirety of what people need.