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, noting the ascription of the Psalm related to Iduthun, reminds his reader that the name refers to leaping. The concern, then, in verses 1-2, may be that by being the one who “leaps over” he might be making himself proud. Thus the Psalm calls out to God, who is always greater than we (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327636). The Lord wis the refuge. Verse three then asks, “How long do ye lay upon a man?” Augustine sees this as laying reproaches, burdens, and he like on a man (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327641). Augustine quickly applies this to the attacks upon Christ, but also to the attacks which fall on those who trust in Jesus. He sees this as the application of Paul’s words about supplying in himself what was lacking in Christ’s suffering (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327651).
Verse four speaks to the assaults against the honor of the godly. Augustine maintains here that people assail a Christian’s honor “because a Christian cannot be killed” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327666). He then speaks of the actions against Christians as applying to all Christians in all ages and all places, because the Church is one body. For this reason, in the Psalm, when someone “lays upon a man” he is assailing all the Church (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327676). At some time in the future God will make a distinction, sorting out all the different peoples. Until then we may have trouble discerning the reason for the troubles we face.
The Psalm makes a comment. “I have run in thirst.” It seems a cryptic statement. Augustine takes it to refer to the desires that we have to appropriate something to ourselves, as when we drink, the liquid is incorprated into us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327716). The water for which we truly thirst, according to Augustine, is the water of baptism which places us into the heavenly Jerusalem. The purpose, in the end, of all the work of the Church, is to draw people to God in Christ. This is what Jesus was thirsty for. This is the goal of verse five, to look to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327741). Yet, Augustine continues to acknowledge that in this life we endure hardship, as a refining process. Veses six and seven, then, confess that God is the one who lifts us up, in whom we glory (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327751). Again, Augustine is clear that it is God who makes people holy.
Verse nine urges all people to hope in God. Augustine ties this back to the idea of the name Iduthun, leaping over your adversaries (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327771). He describes a life without fear of enemies, because of the presence of God. Because of the hope in God, we do not hope in iniquity (v. 10). Iniquity will always fail (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327787).
In verse 11 the Psalm speaks of the communicative nature of God. He is the God who speaks. Augustine shows that this is a consistent theme in Scripture (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327796). Augustine connects the concepts of God’s knowledge and God’s revelation here. Not only did God have exhaustive knowledge of all creation, but he had it before he created anything, and he then spoke it into existence (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327806). This speech, then, according to Augustine, is Christ, the “one word” of God. Augustine sees the Word of God as holding all things up. This leads him back to a conclusion from the early part of the Psalm (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327836). The adversaries push against the walls, but the Lord holds them up.
Augustine is clear that when the unjust push against the just, even though God uses it to accomplish His purposes, the actions are still unjust. He applies this especially to the death of Christ. Though it worked good for the world, the acts involved in betraying, condemning, and executing Jesus were still evil and done from evil intent (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327860). Yet for the Christian who is persecuted, there is always hope in God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327870). The hope of the Christian, according to Augustine, is that he can turn to God as a penitent sinner, receiving assurance of forgiveness. He should not be led astray (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327876). Augustine concludes his comments on Psalm 72 gy illustrating the urgent cry of the Church that people repent and trust in God.