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.
Augustine notes that Psalm 31 takes a close look at the trouble of God’s persecuted people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 320937). Though the Psalmist trusts in God, as in verse 1, it is clear that there are opponents and a need for rescue. For this reason, in verse 2, David calls out to God for immediate rescue. The urgency is clear to Augustine, especially with the repeated cries for help.
By verse 5, the confession is that God has brought redemption. Our confidence is rightly placed in Him, even though the enemies have attempted to entrap God’s people. The idols, which Augustine sees as “the false happiness of the world” are useless (v. 6). God alone is reliable (Augustine Psalms, loc. 320959). In fact, He has shown his mercy in the past and rescued his people (vv. 7-8). This is the liberty of the Christian. The works of evil cannot take God’s people prisoner for long. They are free.
In Psalm 31:9, David is still calling out to God for rescue. Augustine asserts that the Psalmist is “no more alarmed for death, but for torments and tortures” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 320966). The person in distress spends his time dealing with pain and grief, which is consuming. It seems by verse 10 that death would be preferable to the torment of evil. Verse 11 emphasizes the pain of reproach, not only before enemies, but even neighbors and friends (Augustine Psalms, loc. 320974). It is interesting that here Augustine has made no comment to tie this to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. The rejection expressed in verses 10-13 certainly seem to fit the Christ.
In verse 14, David again asserts his trust in God. All his future belongs to God’s mercy (v. 15). This is why, in verse 16, he pleads that God’s mercy would save him. It is the wicked, in verse 17, who should be ashamed, receiving what they have poured out on God’s people. Where they once made statements none could anser, may they be unable to answer.
In verse 19 the focus changes once again to the “sweetness” of the Lord. Even those corrected by God are greatly loved by Him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 320996). Yet Augustine is aware that we should not use this as cause for a compacent attitude. The ungodly will be ashamed. Better to be protected in God’s tabernacle (v. 20). His mercy is great. Therefore, the person who trusts in God must remain in his trust, courageously, knowing the Lord will repay.