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's comments on Psalm 104 press immediately into the content of the first two verses, calling the reader to bless the Lord who is great and clothed with light (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337092, par. 1). As the Lord is pictured spreading his light like a skin over the world, Augustine sees the Church spread out, mortal, signified by skin, over all the earth.
He does this, in verse three, by covering the earth, the "upper parts," with water. Augustine sees this as a representation of God's mercy, which washes His people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337097, par. 2). In verse four the Psalmist mixes the metaphor by having the messengers in this water acting as flames of fire. This suggests to Augustine that those who proclaim God's Word must be on fire spiritually (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337108, par. 3).
Verse five speaks of a firm foundation, which Augustine sees as the Church, built on the Rock of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337108, par. 4). Augustine argues, then, that the Church will remain unshaken if it is rooted in Christ. In verse six, "it" is clothed with "the deep." Augustine asks who this would be, since God is clothed in light, not with the deep (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337118, par. 5). He takes "it"to be the earth. This covering reaches above the mountains, which suggests to Augustine that the Church is covered with a destructive flood of persecutions, and must call out to God for rescue (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337124, par. 6).
The rebuke of God, in verse seven, causes the waters to retreat. Again Augustine takes this as God's protection of his people against their persecutors (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337128, par. 7). All the turmoil is settled by the voice of God (v. 8). The persecutors still exist, just as a calm sea is still a sea, but God has restrained them. Augustine takes verse nine to indicate an ongoing work of restraint allowing some work of evil (v. 10) but only within bounds (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337149, par. 9).
The springs of water, however, which pass through, may also indicate something else. Augustine interprets the mountains as the apostles and the springs between them as their teaching, which flows among them (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337159, par. 10). This is consistent with verse 11, which treats the streams and springs as the place where animals can drink, rather than as a force of destruction (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337165, par. 11). Augustine interprets these beasts as the Gentiles. In this he contrasts them with the Jews, who are said to have a permanent city. Augustine does go on to say that all our mortal life is passing as well, since we look forward to the eternal city in heaven (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337171, par. 12). At that time and in that place we will know God perfectly, without needing an explanation of His Word. This will contrast with the statements in the Psalm about the wild beasts, who he considers now to be the nations, following their own inclinations (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337181, par. 13). On the contrary, the Christian hears, believes, and follows Christ, the rock of salvation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337202, par. 15).
Verses 13 and following speak of God watering the rocks from above and bringing forth fruit. Augustine sees the fulfillment of this in God's Word giving grace (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337212, par. 17). Among those gifts are the provision made for Christian workers. Augustine describes Paul's ability to live from the Gospel in some way (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337218, par. 18). It is important to Augustine that when someone does not receive his due it should be by his own decision, not by compulsion. The fruit of the Gospel, further, is the treasure of Christ, the bread of heaven (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337228, par. 19).
Verse 15 compares the Gospel to wine. Augustine cautions the reader to make sure he is receiving the good wine of the Lord, not an earthly substitute (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337233, par. 20). The wine of God then leads to the power of bread to strengthen a man. Augustine promptly relates this to Christ and the bread of righteousness, for which we hunger (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337251, par. 21). In verse 16 even the trees of the plain, which Augustine sees as "the lower orders of the nations" are watered (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337253, par. 22). Verse 17 shows birds in these trees. Augustine takes this as a sign that God cares for even the least members of His creation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337264, par. 23). They also have leaders, ordained by God, Jesus, who humbles himself. Verse 18 continues the metaphor of wildlife, with stags in the hills (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337279, par. 25).
With verse 19 we leave the flora and fauna and see the moon as the timekeeper for the seasons (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337289, par. 26). Augustine finds here a statement that the Church and the things of the world have a rhythm and a calendar. Yet all of it is under the rule of God, not of the sun and moon (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337300, par. 27). Light and darkness have their own purposes, but they are not the ruler. Rather, they are part of the created order. With the growing light, Christ is seen more clearly, even driving the lions back to their dens (v. 22) (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337315, par. 29). Augustine sees a coming time of safety and security for the Church.
Verse 23 speaks of this security in terms of a man going to work (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337320, par. 30). This leads to a reflection on God going to work (v. 24). Augustine questions what God's work is, and concludes that it has to do with creating and ordering all the world and its progress, especially in the work of the Church (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337327, par. 31). In the Church we can "see," as it were, the invisible work of God, dealing with the spiritual life. All creation ultimately directs our attention to God, the creator of all (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337344, par. 32). Augustine doesn't consider nature exactly safe.
Verse 25 describes "small and great beasts." Augustine considers them allegorically as those things which could take us from Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337350, par. 33). Our safety is found in Christ, who guards his disciples through wind and waves.
Verse 26 describes ships, which Augustine understands as churches navigated by Christ "on the wood of His cross," able to bring God's people safely to their destination (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337362, par. 34). Even the Leviathan, a serpent, does not threaten God's people. Augustine notes that the Leviathan was made for God's plaything and was rightly kept imprisoned. Augustine sees this as a clear picture of Satan, the deceiver, who is really imprisoned by God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337375, par. 36). The conclusion based on all this is that Satan is utterly unable to harm God's people unless they have forsaken God's Word (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337393, par. 39).
Counter to giving his people to the serpent, in verse 28, God opens his hand to give good to his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337399, par. 40). The trouble only comes on those who think they earned or deserved blessing due to their own righteousness. God does humble people by making them aware of their weakness, with a result of turning the people back to him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337411, par. 41). At that time, as we read in verse 30, God sends His spirit on the people, to replace their spirit. This brings glory to God, not to man (v. 31) (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337423, par. 42). Verse 32 continues by describing the whole earth as responsive to God's glory. Even the hills which God touches give forth smoke, symbolic of prayers (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337440, par. 43).
Verse 33, then, concludes that thePsalmist will sing to the Lord. He is the hope of the Christian (Augustine Psalms, loc. 337442, par. 44). Our joy is not in ourselves, but in God. So, in verse 35, we trust the Lord can take care of sinners and the righteous. For all this we give praise to God.