I can already hear the collective head-scratching as you ask “We’re singing about…what???” And I can understand that question, however, much like a book and its cover, we shouldn’t judge a song by just its title.
Honey in the Rock is a song written by Brooke Ligertwood, Brandon Lake, and Mitch Wong. It takes its name from scripture found in Psalm 81:16. This original psalm or song was written by Asaph and is a celebration of what God had done for the children of Israel and a lament over their disobedience towards His commands. The song ends on a note of hope, however, stating, “But he (God) would feed you (Israel) with the finest wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
So the song title sets the stage for artistically showing the miraculous ways that God sustained and provided for His people. The opening 3 lines are Old Testament references to God’s providence.
- A promised land filled with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8-17)
- Water in the rock that Moses struck (Exodus 17:1-7 & Numbers 20:1-13)
- Manna – a white flaky substance akin to bread (Exodus 16:1-7)
The next lines of the chorus speak to not worrying because God will provide and closes with a repeat of the song’s title.
The first verse is a personal prayer asking God for a miracle. It references God as a “living well” or living water (Jeremiah 17:13, Zechariah 14:8-9, John 4:7-26, John 7:37-39, Acts 2:1-13, Revelation 6:9-11, Revelation 7:13-17, Revelation 21:6-7, and Revelation 22:1-5).
The second verse expresses the “sweetness found at the Mercy Seat” (Hebrews 9: 1-14 & Leviticus 16:11-17) and concludes with the experiential nature of knowing Jesus quoting from Psalm 34:8.
The third verse reminds us that where the Spirit of God is there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17) and that even in the desert or wilderness, there can be abundant provision and satisfaction.
The post-chorus reveals that God has a purpose to His plan from the beginning (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11) and that the power of Jesus’ blood (Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:22, 1 Peter 1:2, and 1 Peter 1:18-19) will bring healing and that power begins when Jesus declared “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
The bridge is a personal testimony of how God interacts with us as we follow Him and emphasizes earthly provision and that the person of Jesus is all that we need. This truth is also restated in a slight alteration of the next post-chorus, which explicitly says “Jesus, Jesus, who You are is enough.”
This song is rich in metaphor and grounded deeply in scripture. My prayer for you is that when you sing this song, you will be reminded of how God has provided for you, convinced that Jesus is enough, and drawn deeply into worship.
Beyond the scriptural attributes of this song, I find the musical and artistic choices to be outstanding. Modern worship songs at times get a bad rap due to poor artistic or musical merit and deservedly so but this song isn’t one of them.
A few musical observations:
- The song is written in the key of D Major. This tonality is characterized by its brightness and lends itself to feelings of triumph, joy, and victory. All feelings that manifest in us when we realize how God loves and provides for us.
- The rhythms used in the song are often surprising and syncopated (not on the beat). For example, the melody often jumps in early right before the downbeat which creates an unexpected excitement in its delivery. Additionally, the syncopation in the melody isn’t used every time only adding to the surprise factor. This is a wonderful musical metaphor because who expects to find honey in the rock or water in the stone? The bass drum rhythm also adds to this musical metaphor by showing up in between beats 3 & 4. Typically, the bass drum will emphasize down beats on 1 & 3 or 2 & 4, so this beat emphasis catches the ear and creates a head-bobbing groove for the rest of the instruments to play around.
- The form of the song is another surprise. It has short 4-bar verses that end abruptly into the choruses. While the verses, bridge, and chorus stick to similar musical motifs, the outro introduces a completely different melody. It feels as if a different song is about to start but yet connects beautifully with the preceding material. (The outro also references the hymn “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”)
- Finally, the chord progression is not surprising at all. It is the typical I-vi-V-IV progression found in many songs throughout history but this is only a head fake for the borrowed flat-7 chord found in the transition from the bridge to the final chorus. This song is full of surprises indeed!
I really appreciate the artistic choices made here because it serves the theme and lyrics of the song masterfully and gives a beautiful musical foundation for the listener to stand on as they worship God through song.
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