Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes…
Our subject is the scorpion — a dreadful insect which is as full of lessons as it is of venom. The scorpion is in reality a terrible kind of spider, and has the venom claw at the end of its body, not in its jaw. Scorpions do not look unlike lobsters, as we see them collected in a basket on their way to the market. These uncomfortable creatures, the scorpions, manage in some way to secrete themselves in hidden nooks and corners, and one experienced in travelling in the East — where scorpions abound — will be careful where he takes his seat until he has discovered whether there are any scorpions or venomous spiders hidden under the rocks near where he may happen to be. The scorpion has a peculiar venom, some of the larger scorpions being able to make a man very ill, and even to kill him if he should be one subject to inflammation. The scorpions were so much feared by the early Christians and the apostles of our Lord, that we find tie promised them safety from their stings, and the bite of poisonous reptiles. So much, then, for the scorpion. Let us now learn the lessons which this venomous creature teaches us.
I. First of all, we learn from the scorpion — THE LESSON OF THE HIDDEN POWER OF VENOM. Venomous thoughts are thoughts of malice, and spite, and malignity; that is why we always want to kill a viper, or a snake, or a black spider, because we know that it is filled with venom, or poison, or some noxious material, which will give us pain or perhaps cause our death. A venomous writer is one who is malignant and mischievous. A venomous neighbour is one who is spiteful, and has evil designs upon us. We don't know how it is that we have this evil within us; but it is very evident that in some way venom is within us, just as truly as it is within the poisonous scorpion. Let us beware of this hidden power of venom within us, for the poison as "of asps" is indeed under our lips.
II. The second lesson we learn from the scorpion is — THE LESSON OF THE POISONING POWER OF SIN. The following illustrates what we mean. In the chemical laboratories of our colleges there are many experiments made which show us the wonderful power of a single drop of poison. A great bottle of colourless water will become a thick and clouded white in an instant by the addition of a single drop of the prepared chemical; and one drop of poison, such as strychnia, will paralyse in an instant a living being, such as the goldfish, turtles, and tadpoles which we see in a vase of water. But none of these poisons is so powerful as the poison of sin (James 1:15). I was reading, some time ago, a story which shows us the poisoning power of sin. A man who wished to buy a handsome ring went into a jeweller's in Paris. The jeweller showed him a very ancient gold ring, remarkably fine, and curious on this account, that on the inside of it were two little lion's claws. The buyer, while looking at the others, was playing with this. At last he purchased another, and went away. But he had scarcely reached home, when first his hand, then his side, then his whole body became numb and without feeling, as if he had a stroke of palsy; and it grew worse and worse, till the physician, who came in haste, thought him dying. "You must have somehow taken poison," he said. The sick man protested that he had not. At length someone remembered this ring; and it was then discovered to be what used to be called a death ring, and which was often employed in those wicked Italian States three or four hundred years ago. If a man hated another, and desired to murder him, he would present him with one of them. In the inside was a drop of deadly poison, and a very small hole out of which it would not make its way except when squeezed. When the poor man was wearing it, the murderer would come and shake his hand violently, the lion's claw would give his finger a little scratch, and in a few hours he was a dead man.
III. The third, and last, lesson that we learn from the scorpion is — THE LESSON OF THE MISERY OF SPITEFULNESS. There is nothing in life so miserable and contemptible as the spirit of spitefulness; that is, the spirit of envy at another's success. There is something spiteful and venomous about the bite of an insect or reptile: a bite from a mosquito, a spider, or a snake will always make us think of the spitefulness of the creature that has bitten us.
(R. Newton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: