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 takes the title of Psalm 74 to speak of the understanding of a congregation, since the name “Asaph” means “congregation” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330951). He asks whether this Psalm is the voice of all Israel, as some are righteous and others are not. However, since the apostle Paul tells Gentiles they are “the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise” he takes all Christians to be Israelites (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330961).
Augustine observes that in the Old tand New Testaments, the “sacraments” differ, as do the promises, but he finds the commandments of God to be the same (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330971). The commands all show how to serve God. The sacraments, however, show different things. In the Old Testament he finds sacraments which promise a savior but in the New Testament they deliver salvation. Augustine then cautions his readers to pursue heavenly things, not earthly, so as to rightly know God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330986).
Verse one asks God why he has cast his people away “unto the end” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 330996). Augustine takes this “end” to be either the end of the world or until Christ, the end goal of our lives. Rather than casting His people away, the Psalmist asks that God would remember His people. Augustine reminds his readers that God has always considered the children of Abraham to be his people, and that Christians are adopted into Abraham, no matter their nationality (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331001). Verse three continues to ask that God would raise his “hand upon their pride at the end.” Augustine takes this to be a raising of the hand in anger (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331025). God is asked to judge the boastful and proud (v. 4). The people had rejectedGod’s provision, in verse five, y setting up their own signs. This inventing of religions, including a worship of the state, such as by the use of a Roman eagle, is a departure from God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331035).
Augustine moves more quickly through verses six and following because “they are both evident, and it doth not please me to tarry over the punishment even of enemies” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331050). The city is cast down, the enemies have taken it, and even the arrogant are no longer in authority. Augustine continues to apply this to Israel, captive and desolate, not expecting the redemption of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331060). They cry out even in the time of Augustine, even though Christ the Savior has made salvation ready for them.
Verse 13 shifts the focus somewhat, to the promise of God, a promise of virtue (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331096). God is able to break the threat, even of dragons. Augustine takes the reference to “dragons’ heads” in verse 14 to be the pride of demons, and the reference to water as a statement of the power of baptism.
Augustine notes that the reference to Ethiopians is a statement not only that God has worked salvation for many nations but especially for black men, who are called to the light of salvation. In making this observation Augustine also makes a play on words with dark and light (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331106). He also treats Africans together by turning from te Ethiopians to the Egyptians and showing how Moses delivered God’s people from their slavery to Egypt and her religions. In the later sin with the golden calf, as well as other places, Augustine sees the Bible speaking of evil itself being consumed b God’s people and God’s power (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331116).
In vese 15, Augustine sees the image of God washing his people with the water of life (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331126). He also sees the “torrent” as describing people who speak God’s Word in a timely manner. God uses the water of His word to care for his people, but he dries up the waters of “Etham,” which Augustine translates as “a strong man,” i.e., as Jesus pictures it, the one who relies on himself rather than on God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331136).
All this work of God is perfectly possible, since, in verse 16, God is identified as the possessor of both day and night (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331146). Augustine takes these to be the spiritual and the carnal, respectively. The Psalmist goes on invesre 18 to ask the Lord to be “mindful” of his creature (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331161). There is a great desire (v. 19) that God should preserve all who call on him. The call in verse 20 is that God would care about his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331177). Augustine sees these as eternal promises, not temporal ones. The humble and needy (v. 21) are welcome in God’s promises, for the poor in spirit receive the kingdom of heaven (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331192).
In conclusion, verse 22 asks that God would arise as the judge (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331197). All isvisible to Him, both body and soul. He should also be seen by all creation. Augustine points then to the foolish philosophers and others who trust their own ways rather than God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 331207). Rather, all should see that God is the one who works salvation, according to His promises.