Face to the Wall

The news was devastating. “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.”

Not what King Hezekiah wanted to hear. Though at the point of death, how he had hoped that the prophet’s visit would have been with a different word from the LORD.

And it’s Hezekiah’s response that has me thinking.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD.

(2Kings 20:2 ESV)

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.

Face to the wall. Must be an important detail, not just because it’s recorded here, but because the Spirit makes sure it’s recorded in Isaiah’s parallel account in Isaiah 38, as well. So what am I to pick up from what’s being laid down?

Hezekiah may have turned his face to the wall so that the attendants in the room wouldn’t see that he was blubbering like a baby (20:3b). The dignity of physical strength had already been stripped away as those in his house witnessed daily his deteriorating condition. So, he may have been trying to maintain some emotional dignity by trying to keep his household from also seeing his crushed soul.

Or, perhaps he turned his face to the wall because that would have had him facing toward the temple. Did Hezekiah know the story of Solomon’s petition before God when Solomon first dedicated the temple?

. . . listen to the plea of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.

(1Kings 8:30 ESV)

Maybe Hezekiah went face to the wall so that he could pray toward this place. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s when it came to the proper way of approaching God.

But maybe Hezekiah’s posture reflected the reality of where your hope is when there is no more hope. The reality of the singularity of where you’re forced to go when there’s no other place to go.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

(Matthew 6:6 ESV)

I’m wondering if going face to the wall wasn’t the manner in which a man who was physically unable to get off his death bed could go into “his room” and shut the door. An acknowledgement that the power of his place atop the kingdom had no benefit in this situation. That the pomp and circumstance of having once paraded about as king, now provided no promise or certainty of surviving his malady. Only his room. Only with the door shut. Only before the Father who is in secret.

The Father who sees and rewards, in fact, granted Hezekiah’s request for an extended life — 15 years (2Ki. 20:6a). But we know there are other ways the Father may choose to reward when we go face to the wall.

He rewards with grace that is sufficient. With Spirit-infused power experienced in our weakness. Mercies new every morning. A peace which passes all understanding even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And other encounters of the divine kind as we go face to the wall.

Continuing, ever-present evidence of God’s amazing grace. All for God’s glory.

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