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 points out the centrality of God’s mercy in Scriptures, which show the difference between what we deserve and what God gives us. He brings up the apostle Paul as an example, as he confesses to being the worst of sinners but that he received mercy (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329968). The title of the Psalm hints at this idea, as it refers to the sons of Jonadab, spoken of in Jeremiah. Augustine observes the sons of Jonadab took their father’s command to avoid alcohol as a command of God. They were blessed before the people of Israel because they obeyed their father, but rebuked by God because they had elevated their father to the position of God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329983).
The Psalm, in verse one, declares the hope we have in God. Though the Psalmist may be confounded at times, it will not endure. Augustine ties this to our natural condition as those who live in a sin-cursed world (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329998). The troubles we have a re dissipated as we draw near to Christ. We are then delivered by Jesus’ righteousness, not our own (v. 2). This gives the Psalmist confidence, so in verse three he speaks of God as the protecting God. Augustine points out the safety of God as a place with walls for security (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330019).
The work of God, in verse four, is to rescue from the hands of sinners. Interestingly enough, Augustine refers us to Paul’s cry in Romans chapter seven, asking to be delivered from the body of death, which is his own sin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330034). The strength of the Law is that it convicts us of our injustice. This is how Augustine sees it calling us to beg for rescue (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330044). Augustine sees this as a natural progression which brings the Psalmist to call out to God as his patience (v. 5). Again, Augustine pulls us to Romans with tribulation working patience. The chain in Romans leads to hope (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330049). Somehow Augustine ties the patience and ope to the idea of God as protector, in verse six. He even observes that our hope in God is not only in the future but extends through the past as well (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330059).
Verse seven speaks to the gravity of our sinful condition. Augustine recognizes that apart from Christ we may be eager about all sorts of evil (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330069). In Christ, our desires are changed. Therefore, in verse eight, we ask that God would fill our mouth with His praise. This is to last as long as we live, through old age (v. 9). It recognizes, says Augustine, that even as we grow old and weak, or possibly especially as we grow old and weak, we are strong in Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330085). The renewal of strength which comes from the Lord, and the promise of resurrection, show that our weakness is used by God to show His strength. He is greater than all our enemies (vv. 10-11). Again, Augustine ties the hope we have to the resurrection (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330100).
Augustine, with the Psalmist, reflects that God is not far from his people. He disrupts his enemies and cares for his people (vv. 12-13) (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330110). The opponents of the Christian are trying to sow discontent with God. The Christian counters it by confessing himself a sinner in need of God’s grace (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330120).
Verse 14 turns our attention back to hope in God and giving Him praise. Augustine lists many ways in which God is praised through creation, establishment of government, and creation of social communities (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330135). Verse 15 then emphasizes that we declare God’s righteousness, not our own. Augustine points to the necessity of proclaiming God’s salvation at all times, good and bad, no matter what (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330145).
Verse 15 says “for I have not known tradings.” Augustine takes this as a statement that there is an element of sin inherent in commerce (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330150). He notes that in many, but not all, matters of retail trade there is some lying or cheating involved. A blanket statement might not be appropriate, though. Augustine goes on to mention that some manuscript evidence reads “literature” instead of “trading.” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330185). Both traders and grammarians can live godly lives, but the Psalm cautions against the abuse of commerce or learning. In some way, Augustine sees the call to change as related to both the five books of Moses and the five porches at the pool in Jerusalem, where, when God mves, people receive forgiveness and healing (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330200). Verse 16 then pulls us back to the centrality of considering God’s righteousness and not having a concern for our learning or abilities (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330226). Rather, we walk in the paths of God, receiving his guidance.
The comfort of God extens even into old age (v. 18). Augustine observes that the repetitive “age and old age” in Greek refers to every age, young and old (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330270). Furthermore, in verse 19, Augustine sees the comfort as coming from God’s power. It is God’s power that makes his grace effective for every generation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330295). Here Augustine observes that merit and grace come from God, but we own our sins, a concept which he elaborates in detail.
Verse 20 speaks of the troubles we see. Augustine notes that these are troubles we receive when we withdraw from God’s protection (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330316). Yet all the troubles we endure are not merely punishment. “This was discipline; admonition, not desertion” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330321). It intends to turn us back to God. The troubles we endure, then, are seen by Augustine, as a sign of hope, as they ultimately remind us of Christ and His suffering for us.
Verses 22-23 speak of the way we would sing to God, with musical instruments and with our mouths. These we use as outward expressions of the Holy Spirit’s work in us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330361). Augustine reflects briefly on the world’s desire that Christ and Christians would disappear. However, those desires of our world will be frustrated, as God and His Church will remain (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330376).