The Lord uses that expression in Matthew 12:34 which says, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (NKJV).  He also uses that phrase again in Matthew 23:33. John the Baptist also uses that expression in Matthew 3:7 and Luke 3:7.  

In each of these instances, it is the religious people of the day that are being addressed…the Pharisees, the scribes, and/or the Sadducees.  How sad to think that those who seemingly represented the Lord in the world were actually the worst enemies of the Lord.  Over and over again they sought to stop His work.  So great an enemy they were that the Lord refers to them as a group of poisonous snakes.  Of course, poisonous snakes are a danger to all those around them.  Their bite is deadly and can inflict harm or cause death quite quickly.  As an example, in Acts 28, the Apostle Paul was bit by a viper.  The people were amazed that, “when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him…” (Verse 6).  They were amazed because the bite of the deadly viper did not harm or kill him suddenly.  Such is the danger of these men that the Lord (and John the Baptist) called vipers. 

In another instance, the Lord spoke quite harshly to the scribes and Pharisees.  He said in Matthew 23:27, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”  In that portion, He addresses their hypocrisy in that they try to give off the appearance of being good (graves painted white), while, in truth, they were full of death and ‘all uncleanness.’  In Matthew 12:34, the Lord speaks of that hypocrisy by pointing out that it is natural that a man speaks that which is in their hearts.  Yet, these ‘vipers’ spoke good words, even though their hearts were evil.  They were hypocrites! 

Let’s read the Lord’s words in Matthew 23:2-6, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.”

The heart of these men was revealed, not in their words, but in their actions.  They say one thing and do another.  They put heavy burdens on the people yet did not put these same burdens upon themselves.  They loved the attention of men and loved to be highly esteemed among men.  Hypocrites!  Vipers!

May these words never be applied to us.  May we have true hearts for the Lord.  May we seek to serve the Lord and His people so that we are profitable to them and not harmful.  Make we seek to bring life, not death to those around us.  May we properly, from hearts of love, seek to share the truths of God to our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc.  May the Lord be able to say of us as he did of Mary in Mark 14:8, “She hath done what she could…”  (399.4)