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.
Psalm 37 is broken into three segments, which Augustine treats separately. Here he comments on verses 1-11, later he comments on verses 12-25, then 26-40. Psalm 37:1-2 warn us about the doom of those who do evil. ?Augustine recognizes that the message of the end can lead some to fear. “With terror do they hear of the coming of the last day, who will not be secure by living well” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321770). The time of God’s coming is unknown, but we are called every day to hope in the Lord. The tension, which Augustine perceives, is that we do see those who do evil prospering, being healthy, and receiving respect and honor. This is troubling to many because they think God may not actually care for His people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321786).
The problem that Augustine diagnoses is that verse 1 speaks of God’s judgment coming “soon” but we do not rightly recognize the timing (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321786). In contrast, Augustine compares the person who fears to wild grasses and weeds, while the person who trusts in God is more like a tree, which is able to last longer, even in times of trial. For this reason, trusting the Lord and doing good (v. 3) strengthens our confidence. Then we find ourselves dwelling in God’s land, which Augustine recognizes as the Church (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321802).
Augustine notes that our desire may well be for earthly safety and confidence. However, we cannot achieve it by any of our activities. Verses four and following tell us to delight in the Lord. We give our troubles and concerns to Him. It is as we give our way to the Lord that He cares for us. Augustine further observes that we commit our heart, not our flesh, to God. The desire of our heart, if we are trusting in God, should come from Him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321818). In verse six, God makes our righteousness as visible as the bright noon sun allows us to see. Again, as a result, we trust the Lord (v. 7). It is in submission to God that we find real life (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321831). Augustine goes on to emphasize that this life is in Christ.
Counter to the life in Christ, verse nine speaks of evildoers being cut off (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321857). They will not inherit “the land,” i.e., the promise of God. Our earthly infirmity may make the Lord’s promises to seem delayed. But Augustine compares it to the way a sick person always thinks the physician’s work is slow. We simply need to wait on God, who will work it out in His time (Augustine Psalms, loc. 321867). Augustine emphasizes the certainty of God’s promise.