Posted by: rcottrill | January 31, 2018

Honey in the Rock

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Words: Frederick Arthur Graves (b. July 23, 1856; d. Jan. 2, 1927)
Music: Frederick Arthur Graves

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Cyber Hymnal lists over forty songs by this author, and he provided the music for at least one song written by another.

In 1943, Betty Smith published her acclaimed novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, much of it based her own life and experiences. It tells the story of the Nolans, an Irish-American family, living in the city in the early twentieth century. Two years after its publication, the book became an Oscar-winning film.

In the story, living in a run-down apartment building in a poorer section of Brooklyn, the Nolan family deals with the many hardships of limited means and uncertain circumstances. But just outside their window, struggling up out of the cold concrete, amid the litter and decay, grew a small tree. It became a symbol of hope, especially for young Francie, the central character.

One time or another, it’s something we’ve all experienced. An unexpected blessing in the midst of times of trial, one that encourages us to keep going even in difficult times. It might be the light of a nearby shelter, seen by one traveling through a stormy night, Or perhaps a song, born in a time of terrible conflict, as were both the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, both written during the American Civil War.

Beauty out of ugliness, joy out of sorrow, success out of failure, all may be blessings of God to encourage us on the way. This relates to the nation of Israel, on the borders of Canaan, and about to go in and conquer the land God had given them. In chapter 32 of Deuteronomy, we have a God-inspired song of Moses (vs. 1-43), meant to prepare them for this. It contains both promises of the Lord’s help and blessing, and warnings about the danger of rebelling against Him.

Moses calls God their Rock (vs. 4), the One who’s strong and utterly reliable. Though the way ahead would be challenging and difficult, the Lord would provide what was needed. As a symbol of this, Moses pictures some bees that apparently made a nest in a cold, rocky cliff, saying Israel would be able to “draw honey from the rock” (vs. 13).

It’s not unusual for bees, in the wild, to establish hives in unusual places. There’s another striking example in Judges. Samson killed a lion, and when he came by the spot later:

“He turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion” (Jud. 14:8).

But Moses spoke of honey in a rock for a particular purpose. Much as Betty Smith’s tree did, the image assured Israel that, even in the midst of battle and other challenges, there would be tokens of hope. In the place of difficulty, they would find unexpected blessing, if they continued to trust in the Lord.

But the Israelites weren’t always faithful to Him. Psalm 81 picks up this aspect of the story. God says:

“Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!…With honey from the rock I would have satisfied you” (vs. 13, 16).

Oh that they would! But time and again they didn’t. And, sadly, they suffered the consequences. The book of Judges recounts their repeated backsliding, and Samson’s own moral failures were a reflection of the nation’s spiritual drift.

The present song, Honey in the Rock, written more than a century ago, makes use of honey in a more positive sense, as Moses did, but the author gives it a New Testament application. Graves’s song identifies the Lord Jesus as the Rock, and salvation as the sweet blessing that flows from His willingness to be broken on the cross for us.

CH-1) O my brother, do you know the Saviour,
Who is wondrous kind and true?
He’s the Rock of your salvation!
There’s honey in the Rock for you.

Oh, there’s honey in the Rock, my brother,
There’s honey in the Rock for you;
Leave your sins for the blood to cover,
There’s honey in the Rock for you.

CH-2) Have you “tasted that the Lord is gracious,”
Do you walk in the way that’s new?
Have you drunk from the living Fountain?
There’s honey in the Rock for you.

1) Can you think of an example in your own life, when the Lord provided sweetness (a spiritual blessing) in the midst of a cold, dark time?

2) Could you minister encouragement to someone this week, and be the Lord’s “honey in the rock” to them in their time of difficulty?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Thanks so much for reminding me of an encouraging story I heard from a bereaved (but joyful) friend very recently. A “spiritual blessing in the midst of a cold dark time” for him only weeks ago, was when his wife was dying with cancer in a hospice. In the darkness of the night and in the midst of all her suffering, she witnessed to a young nurse, telling her of her great Hope beyond this life. The little nurse expressed a desire to have this same peace in her life and the lady subsequently had the great joy of leading her to the Lord. This was an enormous encouragement to both husband and wife in her last moments before being called Home.

    • What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it. I often call to mind God’s promise to Abraham, “I will bless you…and you shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). As God blesses us, we have something to pass on to others. In dark times–our own, or someone else’s, the love of Christ can illuminate the darkness.


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