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 opens his comments on Psalm 76 with an interesting logical move. He notes that because the Psalm says God is known in Judea, the Jews say God is therefore unknown in other places (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331405). Augustine’s reasoning, though, does not say God may be known in places other than those specifically mentioned in this text. He rather says that God is known only in Judea but that the apostle Paul identifies this as referring to those who know God in their heart, not a geographic identification (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331411). Augustine continues to clarify that God apportioned the tribes of Israel according to his own plan, making two tribes from Joseph, appointing the role of the Levites, and eventually bringing the perfect priest, Jesus, out of the tribe of Judah rather than Levi.
Augustine makes another interesting observation. All the kings of the Jews were from the tribe of Judah until Herod, whom he calls a “foreign king.” The true king, Jesus, was of Judah (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331436). Those who look to Jesus know God, the one in Judah.
The true Israelites, then, according to Augustine, are those who know God through Jesus. They proclaim the greatness of the God who is there with them (v. 2) (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331456). Yet Augustine comments that many would call on God but not show fruit of repentance. He criticizes this harshly. The presence of God should stop our contention against him, as in verse three he breaks the power of weapons (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331466).
Verses 4 and 5 portray God as displaying His light “on the mountains,” a place where it can be seen, then bringing trouble to the “unwise in heart” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331481). Augustine interprets this to say that when the Gospel is preached those who love the world and trust themselves are troubled (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331486). The hard heart is haughty before God. Verse six speaks of the arrogant mounting up to ride. At the same time, Augustine sees those with hardened hearts as sleeping (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331501). God will come, at the time of His anger, to judge the hard hearted. Verse seven says none can stand before God in this judgment (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331506).
The judgment of God is not merely hostility. Verses 8 and 9 speak of God’s judgment serving a purpose of salvation for the humble (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331511). Augustine finds this to agree with the Gospel since it reminds us always to look to Jesus. Verse 11 then advocates making vows, promises before the Lord. Augustine reminds us of God’s activity in all our promises. “Be ye not slow to vow: for ye will accomplish the vows by powers not your own. Ye will fail, if on yourselves ye rely: but if on Him to whom ye vow ye rely, ye will be safe to pay” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331534). And specifically, Augustine goes on to say our vow should be “to believe in Him, to hope from Him for life eternal, to live godly according to a measure common to all” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331539). Different people will live out their promises in different ways, but God will be the Lord of all and use the different promises together.
The Psalm continues, saying, “All they that are in the circuit of Him shall offer gifts” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331578). All who are in the presence of God, recognizing his revealed truth, these Augustine says would offer gifts before God. Recognizing that God is the author of tuth cause us to humble ourselves and be presentable before God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331588). So in verse 12 Augustine sees the gifts offered to the God who can even overcome princes. The God who is able to do that can certainly govern the wills of the humble.