You, O God, did send a plentiful rain, by which you did confirm your inheritance, when it was weary.
Read Chapter 68
Augustine of Hippo
8. "O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people" (ver. 7). His going forth is perceived, when He appeareth in His works. But He appeareth not to all men, but to them that know how to spy out His works. For I do not now speak of those works which are conspicuous to all men, Heaven and earth and sea and all things that in them are; but the works whereby He leadeth forth men fettered in strength, likewise men provoking that dwell in the tombs, and maketh them of one manner to dwell in a house. Thus He goeth forth before His people, that is, before those that do perceive this His Grace. Lastly, there followeth, "When Thou wentest by in the desert, the earth was moved" (ver. 8). A desert were the nations, which knew not God: a desert they were, where by God Himself no law had been given, where no Prophet had dwelled, and foretold the Lord to come. "When," then, "Thou wentest by in the desert," when Thou wast preached in the nations; "the earth was moved," to the faith earthly men were stirred up. But whence was it moved? "For the heavens dropped from the face of God." Perchance here some one calleth to mind that time, when in the desert God was going over before His people, before the sons of Israel, by day in the pillar of cloud, by night in the brightness of fire; and determineth that thus it is that "the heavens dropped from the face of God," for manna He rained upon His people: that the same thing also is that which followeth, "Mount Sina from the face of the God of Israel," "with voluntary rain severing God to Thine inheritance" (ver. 9), namely, the God that on Mount Sina spake to Moses, when He gave the Law, so that the manna is the voluntary rain, which God severed for His inheritance, that is, for His people; because them alone He so fed, not the other nations also: so that what next he saith, "and it was weakened," is understood of the inheritance being itself weakened; for they murmuring, fastidiously loathed the manna, longing for victuals of flesh, and those things on which they had been accustomed to live in Egypt. ... Lastly, all those men in the desert were stricken down, nor were any of them except two found worthy to go into the land of promise. Although even if in the sons of them that inheritance be said to have been perfected, we ought more readily to hold to a spiritual sense. For all those things in a figure did happen to them; until the day should break, and the shadows should be removed.
9. May then the Lord open to us that knock; and may the secret things of His mysteries, as far as Himself vouchsafeth, be disclosed. For in order that the earth might be moved to the Truth when into the desert of the Gentiles the Gospel was passing, "the Heavens dropped from the face of God." These are the Heavens, whereof in another Psalm is sung, "The Heavens are telling forth the glory of God." ... So here also, "the Heavens dropped;" but "from the face of God." For even these very persons have been "saved through faith, and this not of themselves, but God's gift it is, not of works, lest perchance any man should be lifted up. For of Himself we are the workmanship," "that maketh men of one mood to dwell in a house."
10. But what is that which followeth, "Mount Sina from the face of the God of Israel"? Must there be understood "dropped;" so that what he hath called by the name of Heavens, the same he hath willed to be understood under the name of Mount Sina also; just as we said that those are called mountains, which were called Heavens? Nor in this sense ought it to move us that He saith "mountain," not mountains, while in that place they were called "Heavens," not Heaven: for in another Psalm also after it had been said, "The Heavens are telling forth the glory of God:" after the manner of Scripture repeating the same sense in different words, subsequently there is said, "And the firmament telleth the works of His hands." First he said "Heavens," not "Heaven:" and yet afterwards not "firmaments," but "firmament." For God called the firmament Heaven, as in Genesis hath been written. Thus then Heavens and Heaven, mountains and mountain, are not a different thing, but the very same thing: just as Churches many, and the One Church, are not a different thing, but the very same thing. Why then "Mount Sina, which gendereth unto bondage"? as saith the Apostle. Is perchance the Law itself to be understood in Mount Sina, as that which "the Heavens dropped from the face of God," in order that the earth might be moved? And is this the very moving of the earth, when men are troubled, because the Law they cannot fulfil? But if so it is, this is the voluntary rain, whereof in confirmation he saith, "Voluntary rain God severing to Thine inheritance:" because "He hath not done so to any nation, and His judgment He hath not manifested to them." God therefore set apart this voluntary rain to His inheritance because He gave the Law. And "there was made weak," either the Law, or the inheritance. The Law may be understood to have been made weak, because it was not fulfilled; not that of itself it is weak, but because it maketh men weak, by threatening punishment, and not aiding through grace. For also the very word the Apostle hath used, where he saith, "For that which was impossible of the Law, wherein it was made weak through the flesh:" willing to intimate that through the Spirit it is fulfilled: nevertheless, itself he hath said is made weak, because by weak men it cannot be fulfilled. But the inheritance, that is, the people, without any doubt is understood to have been made weak by the giving to them of the Law. For "the Law came in, that transgression might abound." But that which followeth, "But Thou hast made it perfect," to the Law is thus referred, forasmuch as it is made perfect, that is, is fulfilled after that which the Lord saith in the Gospel, "I have not come to annul the Law, but to fulfil." ... There is in these words yet another sense: which seemeth to me more to approve itself. For much more in accordance with the context, grace itself is understood to be the voluntary rain, because with no preceding merits of works it is given gratis. "For if grace, no longer of works: otherwise grace no longer is grace." ..."But to humble men He giveth grace." And it was made weak, but Thou hast made it perfect:" because "virtue in weakness is perfected." Some copies indeed, both Latin and Greek, have not "Mount Sina;" but, "from the face of the God of Sina, from the face of the God of Israel." That is, "The Heavens dropped from the face of God:" and, as if enquiry were made of what God, "from the face of the God," he saith, "of Sina, from the face of the God of Israel," that is, from the face of the God that gave the Law to the people of Israel. Why then "the Heavens dropped from the face of God," from the face of this God, but because thus was fulfilled that which had been foretold, "Blessing He shall give that hath given the Law"? The Law whereby to terrify a man that relieth on human powers; blessing, whereby He delivereth a man that hopeth in God. Thou then, O God, hast made perfect Thine inheritance; because it is made weak in itself, in order that it may be made perfect by Thee.