In that period following the ascension of Jesus back to heaven, yet before the day of Pentecost arrived ten days later (cf. Acts 1:3), Peter explained to the 120 brethren assembled in an upper room (Acts 1:13, 15) that a new apostle must be chosen to take Judas’ place (Acts 1:15ff). The inspired speaker made his point by combining quotations from both Psalms 69 and 109 (Acts 1:20). In this brief piece, let us consider the first of these texts (Psalm 69:25).
The Hebrew text reads as follows: “Let their habitation be desolate; Let none dwell in their tents.” As will be noted presently, the passage has an ancient setting; later, however, there was a Messianic application.
In the original Old Testament context the author prays to God for deliverance from his enemies. Exactly what situation in the life of David was in view is impossible to determine. Some have speculated that it was during that intense period when he was being pursued mercilessly by Saul, Israel’s king, who was consumed with envy (1 Samuel 18:9).
In this New Testament context, however, Peter makes the application to Judas Iscariot, who became Christ’s betrayer. Without going into considerable detail, we must observe that there are a number of valuable lessons to be gleaned from this remarkable Old Testament passage and its New Testament usage. Let us examine some of the points that may be drawn from the apostle’s use of this text?
Although liberal writers (e.g., Ash and Miller 1980, 18-19) question his statement, Peter declares that David was the author of Psalm 69 (v. 16). Later, in his epistle to the saints in Rome, Paul affirms the same truth (Romans 11:9). Burton Coffman was on target when he quipped, in his characteristically pungent fashion, that “a single word from Paul is worth more than a whole library of critical denials that David wrote it” (1992, 568).
When an Old Testament author utters a prophecy, the integrity of Scripture is at stake; hence, it “was needful” that it must be “fulfilled” (v. 16). The verb dei denotes that which is absolutely necessary, and is under “divine appointment” (Danker et al. 2000, 214; Thayer 1958, 126). It is an arrogant fallacy to dispute the fact that the Spirit intended to “foretell the future,” as alleged by Ash (1979, 36).
The text indicates that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, and as such he communicates through human beings who produced sacred writings that contained “words,” not by means of inexplicable influences. As David elsewhere said, “The Spirit of Jehovah spoke by me, and his words were upon my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2; cf. Matthew 10:20; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:1).
Luke, author of the book of Acts, in citing the Old Testament text, changes the plural “their,” to the singular “his,” and makes the application to Judas. This demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has control over his own words and he, therefore, could alter the language so as to accommodate a different situation in a New Testament context. In the Old Testament setting, the pronoun referred to David’s adversaries (plural), while the use of the text by Peter had reference to the persecution of David’s illustrious descendant by his apostate apostle, Judas. Hence, “his” (not “their”) “habitation” or “office,” i.e., his “position of responsibility” was terminated permanently (Danker et al., 379). “Another” (heteros—another of a different kind; Thayer, 254) would replace him (v. 20). That person was Matthias (v. 26).
A comparison of Psalm 69:25 with Acts 1:16, 20, reveals that an Old Testament text may have a primary application, but an ultimate fulfillment. In the former case, the Spirit was making a point with reference to David, but he also foretold of a distant, final fulfillment in Judas. This is a legitimate approach to prophecy; the expression “double fulfillment” is a meaningless tautology, even though commonly employed.
This context reveals that though Judas had “received his portion” in the Lord’s ministry (1:17; cf. Matthew 10:1, 4; John 17:6, 12), he “fell away” and went to his “own place” (v. 25), “perdition” (John 17:12). A child of God can fall and be lost (contra Calvinism).