St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 74
Posted by Dim Bulb on June 28, 2012
1. This Psalm’s Title is, “Of the Understanding of Asaph.” Asaph in Latin is translated congregation, in Greek Synagogue. Let us see what this Synagogue hath understood. But let us understand firstly Synagogue: from thence we shall understand what the Synagogue hath understood. Every congregation is spoken of under the general name of Synagogue: one both of beasts and of men may be called a congregation; but here there is no congregation of beasts when we heard “understanding.” …for this the Psalm’s Title doth prescribe, saying, “Of the understanding of Asaph.” It is therefore a certain understanding congregation whereof we are about to hear the voice. But since properly Synagogue is said of the congregation of the people of Israel, so that wheresoever we may have heard Synagogue, we are no longer wont to understand any but the people of the Jews; let us see whether perchance the voice in this Psalm be not of that same people. But of what sort of Jews and of what sort of people of Israel? For they are not of the chaff, but perchance of the grain; not of the broken branches, but perchance of those that are strengthened. “For not all that are of Israel are Israelites.” …There are therefore certain Israelites, of whom was he concerning whom was said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom guile is not.” I do not say in the same manner as we are Israelites, for we also are the seed of Abraham. For to the Gentiles the Apostle was speaking, when he said, “Therefore the seed of Abraham ye are, heirs according to promise.” According to this therefore all we are Israelites, that follow the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham. But let us understand here the voice of the Israelites in the same manner as the Apostle saith, “For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Here therefore letus understand that whereof the Prophets have spoken, “a remnant shall be saved.” Of the remnant therefore saved let us hear in this place the voice; in order that there may speak that Synagogue which had received the Old Testament, and was intent upon carnal promises; and by this means it came to pass that their feet were shaken. For in another Psalm, where too the title hath Asaph, there is said what? “How good is the God of Israel to men right in heart. But my feet were almost moved.” And as if we were saying, whence were thy feet moved? “Well nigh,” he saith, “my steps were overthrown, because I was jealous in the case of sinners, looking on the peace of sinners.” For while according to the promises of God belonging to the Old Testament he was looking for earthly felicity, he observed it to abound with ungodly men; that they who worshipped not God were enriched with those things which he was looking for from God: and as though without cause he had served God, his feet tottered. …But opportunely it hath chanced not by our own but by God’s dispensation, that just now we heard out of the Gospel, that “the Law was given by Moses, Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ” For if we distinguish between the two Testaments, Old and New, there are not the same Sacraments nor the same promises; nevertheless, the same commandments for the most part. …When examined they are either all found to be the same, or there are scarce any in the Gospel which have not been spoken by the Prophets. The Commandments are the same, the Sacraments are not the same, the Promises are not the same. Let us see wherefore the commandments are the same; because according to these we ought to serve God. The Sacraments are not the same, for some Sacraments there are giving Salvation, others promising a Saviour. The Sacraments of the New Testament give Salvation, the Sacraments of the Old Testament did promise a Saviour. When therefore thou hast now the things promised, why dost thou seek the things promising, having now the Saviour? …God through the New Testament hath taken out of the hands of His sons those things which are like the playthings of boys, in order that He might give something more useful to them growing up, on that account must He be supposed not to have given those former things Himself. He gave both Himself. But the Law itself through Moses was given, Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ: Grace because there is fulfilled through love that which by the letter was being enjoined, Truth because there is being rendered that which was promised. This thing therefore this Asaph hath understood. In a word, all things which to the Jews had been promised have been taken away. Where is their kingdom? Where the Temple? Where the Anointing? Where is Priest? Where are now the Prophets among them? From what time there came He that by the Prophets was foretold, in that nation there is now nothing of these things; now she hath lost things earthly, and not yet doth seek things Heavenly.
2. Thou shouldest not therefore hold fast things earthly, although God doth bestow them. …See ye how that in fearing to lose things earthly, the Jews slew the King of Heaven. And what was done to them? They lost even those very things earthly: and in the place where they slew Christ, there they were slain: and when, being unwilling to lose the land, they slew the Giver of life, that same land being slain they lost; and at that very time when they slew Him, in order that by that very time they might be admonished of the reason wherefore they suffered these things. For when the city of the Jews was overthrown, they were celebrating the Passover, and with many thousands of men the whole nation itself had met together for the celebration of that festival. In that place God (through evil men indeed, but yet Himself good; through unjust men, but Himself just and justly) did so take vengeance upon them, that there were slain many thousands of men, and the city itself was overthrown. Of this thing in this Psalm “the understanding of Asaph” doth complain, and in the very plaint the understanding as it were doth distinguish things earthly from things heavenly, doth distinguish the Old Testament from the New Testament: in order that thou mayest see through what things thou art passing, what thou shouldest look for, what to forsake, to what to cleave. Thus then he beginneth.
3. “Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?”(ver. 1). “Hast repelled unto the end,” in the person of the congregation which is properly called Synagogue. “Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?” He censureth not, but inquireth “wherefore,” for what purpose, because of what hast Thou done this? What hast Thou done? “Thou hast repelled us unto the end.” What is, “unto the end”? Perchance even unto the end of the world. Hast Thou repelled us unto Christ, who is the End to every one believing? For, “Wherefore hast Thou repelled us, O God, unto the end?” “Thy spirit hath been wroth at the sheep of Thy flock.” Wherefore wast Thou wroth at the sheep of Thy flock, but because to things earthly we were cleaving, and the Shepherd we knew not?
4. “Remember Thou Thy congregation, which Thou hast possessed from the beginning” (ver. 2). Can this by any means be the voice of the Gentiles? Hath He possessed the Gentiles from the beginning? Nay, but He hath possessed the seed of Abraham, the people of Israel even according to the flesh, born of the Patriarchs our fathers: of whom we have become the sons, not by coming out of their flesh, but by imitating their faith. But those, possessed by God from the beginning, what befell them? “Remember Thy congregation which Thou hast possessed from the beginning. Thou hast redeemed the rod of Thine inheritance.” That same congregation of Thine, being the rod of Thine inheritance, Thou hast redeemed. This same congregation he hath called “the rod of the inheritance.” Let us look back to the first thing that was done, when He willed to possess that same congregation, delivering it from Egypt, what sign He gave to Moses, when Moses said to Him, “What sign shall I give that they may believe me, that Thou hast sent me? And God saith to him, What dost thou bear in thine hand? A rod. Cast it on to the ground,” etc. What doth it intimate? For this was not done to no purpose. Let us inquire of the writings of God. To what did the serpent persuade man? To death. Therefore death is from the serpent. If death is from the serpent, the rod in the serpent is Christ in death. Therefore also when by serpents in the desert they were being bitten and being slain, the Lord commanded Moses to exalt a brazen serpent in the desert, and admonish the people that whosoever by a serpent had been bitten, should look thereupon and be made whole. Thus also it was done: thus also men, bitten by serpents, were made whole of the venom by looking upon a serpent. To be made whole of a serpent is a great Sacrament. What is it to be made whole of a serpent by looking upon a serpent? It is to be made whole of death by believing in one dead. And nevertheless Moses feared and red. What is it that Moses fled from that serpent? What, brethren, save that which we know to have been done in the Gospel? Christ died and the disciples feared, and withdrew from that hope wherein they had been. …But, at that time some thousands of the Jews themselves, the crucifiers of Christ, believed: and because they had been found at hand, they so believed as that they sold all that they had, and the price of their goods before the feet of the Apostles they laid. Because then this thing was hidden, and the redemption of the rod of God was to be more conspicuous in the Gentiles: he explaineth of what he saith that which he hath said, “Thou hast redeemed the rod of Thine inheritance.” This he hath said not of the Gentiles in whom it was evident. But of what? “Mount Sion.” Yet even Mount Sion can be otherwise understood. “That one which Thou hast dwelled in the same.” In the place where the People was aforetime, where the Temple was set up, where the Sacrifices were celebrated, where at that time were all those necessary things giving promise of Christ. A promise, when the thing promised is bestowed is now become superfluous. …
5. “Lift up Thine hand upon their pride at the end” (ver. 3). As Thou didst repel us at the end, so “lift up Thine hand upon the pride of them at the end.” The pride of whom? Of those by whom Jerusalem was overthrown. But by whom was it, but by the kings of the Gentiles? Well was the hand of Him lifted up upon the pride of them at the end: for they too have now known Christ. “For the end of the Law is Christ for righteousness to every one believing.” How well doth he wish for them! As if angry he is speaking, and he is seeming to speak evil: and O that there would come to pass the evil which he speaketh: nay now in the name of Christ that it is coming to pass let us rejoice. Now they holding the sceptre are being made subject to the Word of the Cross: now is coming to pass that which was foretold, “there shall adore Him all the kings of the earth, all nations shall serve Him.” Now on the brows of kings more precious is the sign of the Cross, than the jewel of a crown. “Lift up Thine hand upon the pride of them at the end. How great things hath the enemy of malice wrought in Thy holy places!” In those which were Thy holy places, that is, in the temple, in the priesthood, in all those sacraments which were at that time. In good sooth the enemy at that time wrought. For the Gentiles at that time who did this, were worshipping false Gods, were adoring idols, were serving demons: nevertheless they wrought many evil things on the Saints of God. When could they if they had not been permitted? But when would they have been permitted, unless those holy things, at first promised, were no longer necessary, when He that had promised was Himself holden? Therefore, “how great things hath the enemy of malice wrought in Thy holy places!”
6. “And all they have boasted, that hate Thee” (ver. 4). Observe the servants of demons, the servants of idols: such as at that time the Gentiles were, when they overthrew the temple and city of God, “and they boasted.” “In the midst of Thy festival.” Remember what I said, that Jerusalem was overthrown at the time when the very festival was being celebrated: at which festival they crucified the Lord. Gathered together they raged, gathered together they perished. “They have set signs, their own signs, and they have not known” (ver. 5). They had signs to place there, their standards, their eagles, their own dragons, the Roman signs; or even their statues which at first in the temple they placed; or perchance “their signs” are the things which they heard from the prophets of their demons. “And they have not known.” Have not known what? How “thou shouldest have had no power against Me, except it had been given thee from above.” They knew not how that not on themselves honour was conferred, to afflict, to take, or overthrow the city, but their ungodliness was made as it were the axe of God. They were made the instrument of Him enraged, not so as to be the kingdom of Him pacified. For God doth that which a man also ofttime doth. Sometimes a man in a rage catcheth up a rod lying in the way, perchance any sort of stick, he smiteth therewith his son, and then throweth the stick into the fire and reserveth the inheritance for his son: so sometime God through evil men doth instruct good men, and through the temporal power of them that are to be condemned He worketh the discipline of them that are to be saved. For why do you suppose, brethren, that discipline was even thus inflicted upon that nation, in order that it might perish utterly? How many out of this nation did afterwards believe, how many are yet to believe? Some are chaff, others grain; over both however there cometh in the threshing-drag; but under one threshing-drag the one is broken up, the other is purged. How great a good hath God bestowed upon us by the evil of Judas the traitor! By the very ferocity of the Jews how great a good was bestowed upon believing Gentiles! Christ was slain in order that there might be on the Cross One for him to look to who had been stung by the serpent. …
7. Now let us hasten over the verses following after the destruction of Jerusalem, for the reason that they are both evident, and it doth not please me to tarry over the punishment even of enemies. “As if in a forest of trees with axes, they have cut down the doors thereof at once; with mattock and hammer they have thrown Her down” (ver. 6). That is, conspiring together, with firm determination, “with mattock and hammer” they have thrown Her down. “They have burned with fire Thy Sanctuary, they have defiled on the ground the Tabernacle of Thy name” (ver. 7).
8. “They have said in their heart (the kindred of them is in one)”-Have said what? “Come ye, let us suppress the solemnities of the Lord from the land” (ver. 8). “Of the Lord,” hath been inserted in the person of this man, that is, in the person of Asaph. For they raging would not have called Him the Lord whose temple they were overthrowing. “Come ye, let us suppress all the solemnities of the Lord from the land.” What of Asaph? What understanding hath Asaph in these words? What? Doth he not profit even by the discipline accorded? Is not the mind’s crookedness made straight? Overthrown were all things that were at first: nowhere is there priest, nowhere Altar of the Jews, nowhere victim, nowhere Temple. Is there then no other thing to be acknowledged which succeeded this departing? Or indeed would this promissory sign have been taken away, unless there had come that which was being promised? Let us see therefore in this place now the understanding of Asaph, let us see if he profiteth by tribulation. Observe what he saith: “Our signs we have not seen, no longer is there prophet, and us He will not know as yet” (ver. 9). Behold those Jews who say that they are not known as yet, that is, that they are yet in captivity, that not yet they are delivered, do yet expect Christ. Christ will come, but He will come as Judge; the first time to call, afterwards to sever. He will come, because He hath come, and that He will come is evident; but hereafter from above He will come. Before thee He was, O Israel. Thou wast bruised because thou didst stumble against Him lying down: that thou mayest not be ground to powder, observe Him coming from above. For thus it was foretold by the prophet: “Whoever shall stumble upon that stone shall be bruised, and upon whomsoever it shall have come, it shall grind him to powder.” He doth bruise when little, He shall grind to powder when great. Now thy signs thou seest not, now there is no prophet: and thou sayest, “and us He will not know as yet:” because yourselves know not Him as yet. “No longer is there a prophet; and us He will not know as yet.”
9. “How long, O God, shall the enemy revile?” (ver. 10). Cry out as if forsaken, as if deserted: cry out like a sick man, who hast chosen rather to smite the physician than to be made whole: not as yet doth He know thee. See what He hath done, who doth not know thee as yet. For they to whom there hath been no preaching of Him, shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand: and thou yet criest out, “No longer is there a prophet, and us He will not know as yet.” Where is thine understanding? “The adversary doth provoke Thy name at the end.” For this purpose the adversary doth provoke Thy name at the end, that being provoked Thou mayest reprove, reproving Thou mayest know them at the end: or certainly, “at the end,” in the sense of even unto the end.
10. “Wherefore dost Thou turn away Thine hand, and Thy right hand from the midst of Thy bosom unto the end?” (ver. 11). Again, another sign which was given to Moses. For in like manner as above from the rod was a sign, so also from the right hand now. For when that thing had been done concerning the rod, God gave a second sign: “thrust,” He saith, “thine hand into thy bosom, and he thrust it: draw it forth, and he drew it forth: and it was found white,” that is, unclean. For whiteness on the skin is leprosy, not fairness of complexion. For the heritage of God itself, that is, His people, being cast out became unclean. But what saith He to him? Draw it back into thy bosom. He drew it back, and it was restored to its own colour. When doest Thou this, saith this Asaph? How long dost Thou alienate Thy fight hand from Thy bosom, so that being without unclean it remaineth? Draw it back, let it return to its colour, let it acknowledge the Saviour. “Wherefore dost thou turn away Thine hand, and Thy right hand from the midst of Thy bosom unto the end?” These words he crieth, being blind, not understanding, and God doeth what He doeth. For wherefore came Christ? “Blindness in part happened unto Israel, in order that the fulness of the Gentiles might enter in, and so all Israel might be saved.” Therefore now, O Asaph, acknowledge that which hath gone before, in order that thou mayest at least follow, if thou wast not able to go before. For not in vain came Christ, or in vain was Christ slain, or in vain did the corn fall into the ground; but it fell that it might rise manifold. A serpent was lifted up in the desert, in order that it might cure of the poison him that was smitten. Observe what was done. Do not think it to be a vain thing that He came: lest He find thee evil, when He shall have come a second time.
11. Asaph hath understood, because on the Title of the Psalm there is, “understanding of Asaph.” And what saith he? “But God, our King before the worlds, hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth” (ver. 12). On the one hand we cry, “No longer is there prophet, and us He will not know as yet:” but on the other hand, “our God, our King, who is before the worlds” (for He is Himself in the beginning of the Word by whom were made the worlds), “hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth.” “God therefore, our King before the worlds,” hath done what? “hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth:” and I am yet crying as if forsaken! …Now the Gentiles are awake, and we are snoring, and as though God hath. forsaken us, in dreams we are delirious. “He hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth.”
12. Now therefore, O Asaph, amend thyself according to thy understanding, tell us what sort of Salvation God hath wrought in the midst of the earth. When that earthly Salvation of yours was overthrown, what did He do, what did He promise? “Thou didst confirm in Thy virtue the sea” (ver. 13). As though the nation of the Jews were as it were dry land severed from the waves, the Gentiles in their bitterness were the sea, and on all sides they washed about that land: behold, “Thou hast confirmed in Thy virtue the sea,” and the land remained thirsting for Thy rain. “Thou hast confirmed in Thy virtue the sea, Thou hast broken in pieces the heads of dragons in the water.” Dragons’ heads, that is, demons’ pride, wherewith the Gentiles were possessed, Thou hast broken in pieces upon the water: for those persons whom they were possessing, Thou by Baptism hast delivered.
13. What more after the heads of dragons? For those dragons have their chief, and he is himself the first great dragon. And concerning him what hath He done that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? Hear: “Thou hast broken the head of the dragon” (ver. 14). Of what dragon? We understand by dragons all the demons that war under the devil: what single dragon then, whose head was broken, but the devil himself ought we to understand? What with him hath He done? “Thou hast broken the head of the dragon.” That is, the beginning of sin. That head is the part which received the curse, to wit that the seed of Eve should mark the head of the serpent. For the Church was admonished to shun the beginning of sin. Which is that beginning of sin, like the head of a serpent? The beginning of all sin is pride. There hath been broken therefore the head of the dragon, hath been broken pride diabolical. And what with him hath He done, that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth? “Thou hast given him for a morsel to the Ethiopian peoples.” What is this? How do I understand the Ethiopian peoples? How but by these all nations? And properly by black men: for Ethiopians are black. They are themselves called to the faith who were black; the very same indeed, so that there is said to them, “for ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.” …Thence was also that calf which the people worshipped, unbelieving, apostate, seeking the gods of the Egyptians, forsaking Him who had delivered them from the slavery of the Egyptians: whence there was enacted that great Sacrament. For when Moses was thus wroth with them worshipping and adoring the idol, and, inflamed with zeal for God, was punishing temporally, in order that he might terrify them to shun death everlasting; yet the head itself of the calf he cast into the fire, and ground to powder, destroyed, strawed on the water, and gave to the people to drink: so there was enacted a great Sacrament. O anger prophetic, and mind not perturbed but enlightened! He did what? Cast it into the fire, in order that first the form itself may be obliterated; piece by piece grind it down, in order that little by little it may be consumed: cast it into the water, give to the people to drink! What is this but that the worshippers of the devil were become the body of the same? In the same manner as men confessing Christ become the Body of Christ; so that to them is said, “but ye are the Body of Christ and the members.” The body of the devil was to be consumed, and that too by Israelites was to be consumed. For out of that people were the Apostles, out of that people the first Church. …Thus the devil is being consumed with the loss of his members. This was figured also in the serpent of Moses. For the magicians did likewise, and casting down their rods they exhibited serpents: but the serpent of Moses swallowed up the rods of all those magicians. Let there be perceived therefore even now the body of the devil: this is what is coming to pass, he is being devoured by the Gentiles who have believed, he hath become meat for the Ethiopian peoples. This again, may be perceived in, “Thou hast given him for meat to the Ethiopian peoples,” how that now all men bite him. What is, bite him? By reproving, blaming, accusing. Just as hath been said, by way of prohibition indeed, but yet the idea expressed: “but if ye bite and eat up one another, take heed that ye be not consumed of one another.” What is, bite and eat up one another? Ye go to law with one another, ye detract from one another, ye heap revilings upon one another. Observe therefore now how that with these bitings the devil is being consumed. What man, when angry with his servant, even a heathen, would not say to him, Satan? Behold the devil given for meat. This saith Christian, this saith Jew, this saith heathen: him he worshippeth, and with him he curseth! …
14. “Thou hast cleft the fountains and torrents” (ver. 15): in order that they might flow with the stream of wisdom, might flow with the riches of the faith, might water the saltness of the Gentiles, in order that they might convert all unbelievers into the sweetness of the faith by their watering. …In some men the Word of God becometh a well of water springing up unto life eternal; but others hearing the Word, and not so keeping it as that they live well, yet not keeping silence with tongue, they become torrents. For they are properly called torrents which are not perennial: for sometimes also in a secondary sense torrent is used for river: as hath been said, “with the torrent of Thy pleasures Thou shalt give them to drink.” For that torrent shall not ever be dried up. But torrents properly are those rivers named, which in summer fail, but with winter rains are flooded and run. Thou seest therefore a man sound in faith, that will persevere even unto the end, that will not forsake God in any trial; for the sake of the truth, not for the sake of falsehood and error, enduring all difficulties. Whence is this man so vigorous, but because the Word hath become in him a well of water springing up unto life eternal? But the other receiveth the Word, he preacheth, he is not silent, he runneth: but summer proveth whether he be fountain or torrent. Nevertheless through both be the earth watered, by Him who hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth: let the fountains overflow, let the torrents run.
15. “Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham” (ver. 15). …What is Etham? For the word is Hebrew. What is Etham interpreted? Strong, stout. Who is this strong and stout one, whose rivers God drieth up? Who but that very dragon? For “no one entereth into the house of a strong man that he may spoil his vessels, unless first he shall have bound fast the strong man.” This is that strong man on his own virtue relying, and forsaking God: this is that strong man, who saith, “I will set my seat by the north, and I will be like the Most High.” Out of that very cup of perverse strength he hath given man to drink. Strong they willed to be, who thought that they would be Gods by means of the forbidden food. Adam became strong, over whom was reproachfully said, “Behold, Adam hath become like one of us.” …As though they were strong, “to the righteousness of God they have not been made subject.” Observe ye that a man hath put out of the way his own strength, and remained weak, needy, standing afar off, not daring even to raise his eyes to Heaven; but smiting his breast, and saying, “O Lord, merciful be Thou to me a sinner.” Now he is weak, now he confesseth his weakness, he is not strong: dry land he is, be he watered with fountains and torrents. They are as yet strong who rely on their own virtue. Be their rivers dried up, let there be no advancement in the doctrines of the Gentiles, of wizards, of astrologers, of magic arts: for dried up are the rivers of the strong man: “Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham.” Let there dry up that doctrine; let minds be flooded with the Gospel of truth.
16. “Thine own is the day and Thine own is the night” (ver. 16). Who is ignorant of this, seeing that He hath Himself made all these things; for by the Word were made all things? To that very One Himself who hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth, to Him is said, “Thine own is the night.” Something here we ought to perceive which belongeth to that very Salvation which He hath wrought in the midst of the earth. “Thine own is the day.” Who are these? The spiritual. “And Thine own is the night.” Who are these? The carnal. …”Thou hast made perfect sun and moon:” the sun, spiritual men, the moon, carnal men. As yet carnal he is, may he not be forsaken, and may he too be made perfect. The sun, as it were a wise man: the moon, as it were an unwise man: Thou hast not however forsaken. For thus it is written, “A wise man endureth as the sun, but a foolish man as the moon is changed.” What then? Because the sun endureth, that is, because the wise man endureth as the sun, a foolish man is changed like the moon, is one as yet carnal, as yet unwise, to be forsaken? And where is that which hath been said by the Apostle, “To the wise and unwise a debtor I am”?
17. “Thou hast made all the ends of the earth” (ver. 17). …Behold in what manner He hath made the ends of the earth, that hath wrought Salvation in the midst of the earth. “Thou hast made all the ends of the earth. Summer and spring Thou hast made them.” Men fervent in the Spirit are the summer. Thou, I say, hast made men fervent in the Spirit: Thou hast made also the novices in the Faith, they are the “spring.” “Summer and Spring Thou hast made them.” They shall not glory as if they have not received: “Thou hast made them.”
18. “Mindful be Thou of this Thy creature” (ver. 18). Of what creature of Thine? “The enemy hath reviled the Lord.” O Asaph, grieve over thine old blindness in understanding: “the enemy hath reviled the Lord.” It was said to Christ in His own nation, “a sinner is this Man: we know not whence He is:” we know Moses, to him spake God; this Man is a Samaritan. “And the unwise people hath provoked Thy name.” The unwise people Asaph was at that time, but not the understanding of Asaph at that time. What is said in the former Psalm? “As it were a beast I have become unto Thee, and I am alway with Thee:” because He went not to the gods and idols of the Gentiles. Although he knew not, being like a beast, yet he knew again as a man. For he said, “alway I am with Thee, like a beast:” and what afterwards in that place in the same Psalm, where Asaph is? “Thou hast held the hand of my right hand, in Thy will Thou hast conducted me, and with glory Thou hast taken me up.” In Thy will, not in my righteousness: by Thy gift, not by my work. Therefore here also, “the enemy hath reviled the Lord: and the unwise people hath provoked Thy name.” Have they all then perished? Far be it. …For even the Apostle Paul through unbelief had been broken, and through faith unto the root he was restored. So evidently “the unwise people provoked Thy name,” when it was said, “If Son of God He is let Him come down from the Cross.”
19. But what sayest thou, O Asaph, now in understanding? “Deliver not to the beasts a soul confessing to Thee” (ver. 19). …To what beasts, save to those the heads whereof were broken in pieces upon the water? For the same devil is called, beast, lion, and dragon. Do not, he saith, give to the Devil and his Angels a soul confessing to Thee. Let the serpent devour, if still I mind things earthly, if for things earthly I long, if still in the promises of the Old Testament, after the revealing of the New, I remain. But forasmuch as now I have laid down pride, and my own righteousness I will not acknowledge, but Thy Grace; against me let proud beasts have no power. “The souls of Thy poor forget Thou not unto the end.” Rich we were, strong we were: but Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham: no longer we establish our own righteousness, but we acknowledge Thy Grace; poor we are, bearken to Thy beggars. Now we do not dare to lift our eyes to Heaven, but smiting our breasts we say, “O Lord, be Thou merciful to me a sinner.”
20. “Have regard unto Thy Testament” (ver. 20). Fulfil that which Thou hast promised: the tables we have, for the inheritance we are looking. “Have regard unto Thy Testament,” not that old one: not for the sake of the land of Canaan I ask, not for the sake of the temporal subduing of enemies, not for the sake of carnal fruitfulness of sons, not for the sake of earthly riches, not for the sake of temporal welfare: “Have regard unto Thy Testament,” wherein Thou hast promised the kingdom of Heaven. Now I acknowledge Thy Testament: now understanding is Asaph, no beast is Asaph, now he seeth that which was spoken of, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, and I will accomplish with the House of Israel and of Juda a new Testament, not after the Testament which I ordered with their Fathers.” “Have regard unto Thy Testament: for they that have been darkened have been filled of the earth of unrighteous houses:” because they had unrighteous hearts. Our “houses” are our hearts: therein gladly dwell they that are blessed with pure heart. “Have regard,” therefore, “unto Thy Testament:” and let the remnant be saved: for many men that give heed to earth are darkened, and filled with earth. For there hath entered into their eyes dust, and it hath blinded them, and they have become dust which the wind sweepeth from the face of the earth. “They that have been darkened have been filled of the earth of unrighteous houses.” For by giving heed to earth they have been darkened, concerning whom there is said in another Psalm, “Let their eyes be blinded, that they see not, and their back ever bow Thou down.” With earth, then, “they that have been darkened have been filled, with the earth of unrighteous houses:” because they have unrighteous hearts. …
21. “Let not the humble man be turned away confounded” (ver. 21). For them pride hath confounded. “The needy and helpless man shall praise Thy name.” Ye see, brethren, how sweet ought to be poverty: ye see that poor and helpless men belong to God, but “poor in spirit, for of them is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Who are the poor in spirit? The humble, men trembling at the words of God, confessing their sins, neither on their own merits, nor on their own righteousness relying. Who are the poor in spirit? They who when they do anything of good, praise God, when anything of evil, accuse themselves. “Upon whom shall rest My Spirit,” saith the Prophet, “but upon the humble man, and peaceful, and trembling at My words?” Now therefore Asaph hath understood, now to the earth he adhereth not, now the earthly promises out of the Old Testament he requireth not. …
22. “Arise, O Lord, judge Thou my cause” (ver. 22) . …Because I am not able to show my God, as if I were following an empty thing, they revile me. And not only Heathen, or Jew, or heretic; but sometimes even a Catholic brother doth make a grimace when the promises of God are being preached, when a future resurrection is being foretold. And still even he, though already washed with the water of eternal Salvation, bearing the Sacrament of Christ, perchance saith, “and what man hath yet risen again?” And, “I have not heard my father speaking out of the grave, since I buried him!” “God hath given to His servants a law for time, to which let them betake themselves: for what man cometh back from beneath?” And what shall I do with such men? Shall I show them what they see not? I am not able: for not for the sake of them ought God to become visible . …I see not, he saith: what am I to believe? Thy soul is seen then, I suppose? Fool, thy body is seen: thy soul who doth see? Since therefore thy body alone is seen, why art thou not buried? He marvelleth that I have said, If body alone is seen, why art thou not buried? And he answereth (for he knoweth as much as this), Because I am alive. How know I that thou art alive, of whom I see not the soul? How know I? Thou wilt answer, Because I speak, because I walk, because I work. Fool, by the operations of the body I know thee to be living, by the works of creation canst thou not know the Creator? And perchance he that saith, when I shall be dead, afterwards I shall be nothing; hath both learned letters, and hath learned this doctrine from Epicurus, who was a sort of doting philosopher, or rather lover of folly not of wisdom, whom even the philosophers themselves have named the hog: who said that the “chief good” was pleasure of body; this philosopher they have named the hog, wallowing in carnal mire. From him perchance this lettered man hath learned to say, I shall not be, after I have died. Dried be the rivers of Etham! Perish those doctrines of the Gentiles, flourish the plantations of Jerusalem! Let them see what they can, in heart believe what they cannot see! Certainly all those things which throughout the world now are seen, when God was working Salvation in the midst of the earth, when those things were being spoken of, they were not then as yet: and behold at that time they were foretold, now they are shown as fulfilled, and still the fool saith in his heart, “there is no God.” Woe to the perverse hearts: for so will there come to pass the things which remain, as there have come to pass the things which at that time were not, and were being foretold as to come to pass. Hath God indeed performed to us all the things which He promised, and concerning the Day of Judgment alone hath He deceived us? Christ was not on the earth; He promised, He hath performed: no virgin had conceived; He promised, He hath performed: the precious Blood had not been shed whereby there should be effaced the handwriting of our death; He promised, He hath performed: not yet had flesh risen again unto life eternal; He promised, He hath performed: not yet had the Gentiles believed; He promised, He hath performed: not yet heretics armed with the name of Christ, against Christ were warring; He foretold, He hath performed: not yet the idols of the Gentiles from the earth had been effaced; He foretold, He hath performed: when all these things He hath foretold and performed, concerning the Day of Judgment alone hath He lied? It will come by all means as these things came; for even these things before they came to pass were future, and as future were first foretold, and afterwards they came to pass. It will come, my brethren. Let no one say, it will not come: or, it will come, but far off is that which will come. But to thyself it is near at hand to go hence. …If thou shall have done that which the devil doth suggest, and shalt have despised that which God hath commanded; there will come the Judgment Day, and thou wilt find that true which God hath threatened, and that false which the devil hath promised. …”Remember Thy reproaches, those which are from the imprudent man all the day long.” For still Christ is reviled: nor will there be wanting all the day long, that is, even unto the end of time, the vessels of wrath. Still is it being said, “Vain things the Christians do preach:” still is it being said, “A fond thing is the resurrection of the dead.” “Remember Thy reproaches.” But what reproaches, save those “which are from the imprudent man all the day long?” Doth a prudent man say this? Nay, for a prudent man is said to be one far-seeing. If a prudent man is one far-seeing, by faith he seeth afar: for with eyes scarce that before the feet is seen.
23. “Forget not the voice of them that implore Thee” (ver. 23). While they groan for and expect now that which Thou hast promised from the New Testament, and walk by that same Faith, “do Thou not forget the voice of them imploring Thee.” But those still say, “Where is Thy God? Let the pride of them that hate Thee come up always to Thee.” Do not forget even their pride. Nor doth He forget: no doubt He doth either punish or amend. (source)