Honey in the Rock

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He would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. (Psalm 81:16)


After forty long, hard years of hunger and loss in the wilderness, the people of Israel are in Kadesh, finally on the cusp of the promised land. Are they thankful to have been brought this far and hopeful about what God’s about to do? No, they’re grumbling again, this time about water. 


And yet, as he so often does with bitter, stubborn Israel (and with us), God responds patiently and with help. The Lord tells Moses,


Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle. (Numbers 20:8)


Even after they watched God deliver their people from Egypt and feed them for forty years in the wilderness, they looked at the dry ground around them and could not imagine God quenching their thirst. So he took the driest, hardest land he could find, and made it a fountain.


Refreshment in Unlikely Places


Moses gathered Israel around the rock — he obeyed that far, at least — and then he “lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock” (Numbers 20:11).


Because you’ve likely never been as thirsty as they were, and because you’ve likely drank from faucets, bottles, and water fountains your whole life, it will be difficult to imagine the wonder of this moment, to really taste the miracle. As they faced the real prospect of dying of thirst, an ordinary rock, like so many rocks they’d seen on this journey, poured water like a broken dam. This wasn’t a trickle of moisture, but enough to satisfy thousands of people — and not only the people, but their animals too.


Because God was their God, they found refreshment in the most unlikely place. They survived what no one could survive. They drank from wells that didn’t exist. They learned, again, just how generously God provides for those who trust and ask. So do you trust him in moments like these? Do you still expect God to provide or deliver, even when you can’t see how he could?


More Than Water


Looking back on how God cared for and fed his people in the wilderness, the psalmist rehearses the lesson that Israel was so slow to trust and embrace: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). Just like in Moses’s day, however, the psalmist saw just how discontent and distrusting God’s people could be. 


A few verses later, he warns them on behalf of God, “Oh, that my people would listen to me! I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes” (Psalm 81:13–14). If you would listen to me and trust and obey me, I would guard you from all harm and harm all those who would hurt you.


More than that, the psalmist says in the next verse,


He would feed you with the finest of the wheat,

and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. (Psalm 81:16)


This God will not only protect us, and not only provide for us, but he’ll go even further and satisfy our deepest longings. He won’t settle for streams of water — the basics of what we need to live. He’ll carve out streams of honey — a sweetness we do not need, but that brings joy to life. 


The land he’s preparing for you, in the Christ-filled world to come, is not only a safe shelter from storms and wars, but a paradise of milk and honey (see Deuteronomy 32:13–14). In the presence of God, we’ll experience unparalleled pleasure (Psalm 16:11) — and we’ll see that honey (and everything else we enjoyed on earth) was only a teaspoon of joy next to the rivers of knowing and having him.


Water and a Warning


The rock at Kadesh was a stunning fountain — and a sober warning. If you read carefully, you heard that instead of telling the rock to offer water, like God had said, Moses went further and struck the rock. And he struck the rock not once, but twice. He didn’t listen, and God hated the sound of each unbelieving strike. 


And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)


For all the faith Moses had through the plagues and the wilderness — and he had great faith (see Hebrews 11:23–28) — he was not allowed to see the promised land. Why would that be? Why would God hold that one rock against him?


Because he wanted the generations to come to take his word that seriously. He wanted us to see that we will have his promises only if we trust his promises. So, whatever needs or trials are pressing in on you now, run to our Rock, Jesus Christ. Listen diligently to him, receive him, and expect God to provide and satisfy in ways you don’t expect.