Beautiful things can be deadly.   Sensory appeal is often a trap designed to catch and kill.  The most poisonous frogs are the most colorful.  The prettiest mushrooms are the deadliest.   The anglerfish draws prey to its luminescent lure in the darkest depths of the sea.   And there are carnivorous plants that attract prey through sight and smell.

Botanists have categorized over 630 species of carnivorous plants.   Through color, smell, and visual features, these plants attract, trap and digest insects and animals to supply the nutrients they need.  Larger varieties are capable of digesting reptiles and small mammals. While others specialize in single-celled organisms.  Aquatic varieties eat crustaceans, mosquito larvae and small fish.

Among the most beautiful varieties are Sundews.   Sundews are “flypaper” plants that trap prey in sticky hairs on their leaves.  Long tentacles protrude from their leaves, each with a sticky gland at the tip which produce droplets of nectar. These droplets look like dew, glistening in the sun.  The nectar attracts prey, powerful adhesive traps it, and enzymes digest it. Once an insect becomes stuck, nearby tentacles coil around the insect and smother it.  Sundews kill their victims in 15 minutes, but digest them over weeks.  Interestingly, the plant’s deadly secretions are harmless to the assassin bug, which hides on the plant to prey on the helpless victims.  Sundews are indeed beautiful plants, but their beauty is intended to kill.

Beauty is often deadly.   And not just for insects.  Things that appeal to our senses and appetites may kill us as well.  Solomon surrounded himself with beautiful things, but both in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, he noted their deceptive nature.   In Proverbs, he remarked, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.”    And in Ecclesiastes, he opined, “’Come now, I will test you with pleasure, enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity.”  

Solomon even personified Folly as a seductive woman.

The woman Folly is loud;
    she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
    she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. 

Proverbs 9:13-18

Our fairy tales have taught us that beauty often conceals a beast.   Revelation 17 gives us a vivid picture of this truth.  The seductive appeal of worldliness to supply meaning, fulfillment and safety, is a deadly ruse.   Revelation 17 begins a new division within John’s visions.  A division which emphasizes the distinction between the deadly deceptive charms of the world, pictured as a luxuriant but violent prostitute, and the enduring, life-giving beauty of Christ’s church, pictured as a radiant bride.  

In a world where Christ promises persecution while conformity to the world promises peace, it is easy to lose sight of this distinction between harlot and bride.   But the Lord unveils for John, and for us, a clear revelation of the deadly beast that lies in wait beneath great worldly allure. 

Join us this week as we examine Revelation 17 and consider the seductive allure of seeking meaning, fulfillment, or safety from the things of this world. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.