“But he would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:16
This beautiful picture of provision comes at the end of a psalm that reads more like a prophecy (ref: ESV study notes). Asaph’s song begins by commanding us to sing out loud to God, play instruments, and offer exuberant worship. He then transitions into describing how the LORD has delivered Israel and how Israel has not listened to his voice (v.11), so he “gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own counsels” (v.12). This psalm’s description of God’s deliverance explains that the way of blessing is to listen to his voice. Like a father, he wants to fill our mouths, feed us, and satisfy us.
The phrase from verse 16, “honey from the rock” jumped out at me. It reminded me of Moses striking the rock in Numbers 20 and his subsequent banning from the promised land. A glance at the cross references gave a hint in that direction by pointing to Moses’ song in Deuteronomy 32. Here, Moses names the LORD as “The Rock” and verse 13 says, “and he suckled him with honey out of the rock,” giving the picture of Israel being fed. This song the LORD gives Moses is after the infamous incident of Moses striking the rock in Numbers when the LORD commanded him to speak to the rock.
The apostle Paul explains this rock of provision for the Israelites, “for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:4). So, we know that Jesus Christ is “The Rock” of Moses’ song, and he is the Rock that provided water for Israel in the desert. Jesus is the “stone the builder’s rejected” that became the “cornerstone”(Psalm 118:22, Matt. 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, 1 Peter 2:4-8). Additionally, he promises living water to those who come to him thirsty (John 7:37). He is the rock from which flows rivers of living water, and of whom we must eat and drink in order to have life (John 6:53).
God’s word to us, Jesus Christ — his redemptive story in the Bible — is also described as bread. He is God’s provision to us. John 6 has the miraculous feeding of the five thousand with a loaf of broken bread, followed by Jesus’ promise that he is the bread of life — the manna from heaven (v.32-35). Manna was described as having a “taste…like wafers made with honey” (Ex. 16:31). There are many other Scriptures that also describe God’s word –his daily bread to us — as honey:
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) Psalm 19 describes God’s law as “sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Ezekiel’s call from God to speak his word included eating a scroll from God that tasted as “sweet as honey” (Ezek. 3:3). The scroll the apostle John was given was sweet in his mouth but then turned bitter in his stomach with judgment (Revelation 10). So, from the rock which is Christ, he gives us the sweet word — his very self — as provision, mercy, and grace for each day.
The point of Psalm 81 is the imperative to listen and obey God’s voice. Its phrasing and imagery is meant to teach us that Jesus is the Rock and the Word filled with sweetness and provision. The LORD wants to satisfy us, to provide for us by his Son who is the honey-sweet manna, the bread of life, and the living water. He is the scroll that we eat, the words that we hear, and the Rock on which we fall to be broken in pieces in the sacrifice of worship for our King (Matt. 21:44).