Immanuel: The Excalibur of Israel

Spiritual parallels in the legend of King Arthur.

by Bob Hostetler

The whiskered knight eyed the crowd outside the stone church.

A massive stone occupied the ground beside the knight, bearing an anvil in its midst. Stuck into the anvil by its point, a sword gleamed, bearing these words in gold: “Whoso pulleth out this sword out of this stone and anvil, the same is rightwise born king of England.”

The knight grasped the sword in one hand and, looking confidently at the crowd, heaved mightily. The sword remained. He grabbed it with both hands and yanked again. Still nothing. He struggled sweatingly until others pushed him out of the way and took his place.

Then came Arthur, thought to be the son of a simple knight. The boy, with an air of unconcern, put hand to hilt and, without effort or trouble, pulled the sword Excalibur from its place.

Three times that simple but forceful demonstration was repeated, until the people recognized Arthur as the rightful king of England.

Similarly, one might say that the nation of Israel had an Excalibur. Isaiah set the sword in stone with his prophecy. “The Lord himself will give you a sign,” he said. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Only Jesus was equal to this Excalibur, for He alone revealed the full meaning of Immanuel, “God with us.”

God with us

None of the towering figures of Israel’s history — Abraham, Moses, Joshua David, Elijah — could lay claim to that title. None of them could be called Immanuel.

Don’t miss the significance of that title. Some seek to ignore its impact. Some strive to deny its importance. Some struggle to cloud its clear implication. But the promise is clear: “They will call him Immanuel — which means, ‘God with us'” (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus testified, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58, NKJV). No wonder those who heard this admission took up stones to kill Him, for they recognized His words as a claim to divinity. The inestimable glory of the Incarnation is capsulized in that one word Immanuel: God with us”!

God with us

It is true of our time, as it was in the days of Joseph and Mary, that men the world over are prepared to accept the doctrine of a God who is above us. His reality can hardly be denied: It is evident in the vast, starry host of heaven. Our gigantic leaps in knowledge have only opened our eyes wider in amazement at His Genesis power.

Many people likewise admit the existence of a God who is against us, a God who must be appeased, whose law must be kept if His wrath is to be averted.

But the prophet’s promise announces God with us, a God who is one of us. It proclaims a God who took on “the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, NKJV).

In the person of Jesus, Immanuel, God rubbed shoulders with us. He is a God with us, among us, in us, reconciled to us, at peace with us, interested in us, interceding for us. Immanuel. God with us.

God with us

To us it is nothing to imagine that God was with Abraham, that He was with Moses, that He knew Elijah and David and Isaiah.

But the promise of Immanuel’s coming is “God with us!”

The incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ made it possible for Him to be present with us today. He not only trod the dusty roads of Galilee with James and John, but also accompanies us on the asphalt highways of our daily lives. He came to earth not only to lift a frightened Peter out of threatening waves, but also to raise us out of our sins and transform us from victims to victors!

The promise of Immanuel, God with us, can be yours. Just breathe a simple prayer of faith. He will come to you. He will abide with you. He is the rightful King of your heart.