Foes who became friends

In a new four-week series, we're looking at astonishing stories of people who were touched by God.

Taken together, the books of the Old Testament tell the story of the Jewish people and their God. It's not a story in which the favoured nation comes out consistently well and we read of many situations in which the people chosen as agents for God's mission falter and fail.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, there are occasional stories in which the divine initiative rests with outsiders, unlikely men and women who were not born to the children of Abraham.

We'll look at the way that God worked among two men and two women, whose lives are still remembered today.

28 June: Naaman - Enemy General

Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, which waged war and made occasional pacts of peace with Israel in the same plains and hills which even today are disputed. International tension rose when Naaman, who suffered from leprosy, approached the King of Israel with the hope of a cure from his dread disease.

4 July: Ruth - Economic Migrant

Ruth married into a displaced Jewish family which settled in her land of Moab. When her husband died, rather than remain with her kinsfolk, she loyally set out with her mother-in-law to find a better future in Bethlehem. But how would she, a foreigner, be received?

11 July: Cyrus - Foreign Ruler

50 miles south of modern Baghdad, Babylon held the exiles from Jerusalem. The city had fought and lost to the Persians under the command of Cyrus the Great. Cyrus ruled by decree. His authority was unchallengeable. Yet even he heard the voice of a higher authority and changed policy.

18 July: Rahab - Sex worker

Jericho stood before the poorly equipped Israelite force, apparently impregnable. Military strategists sent spies into the city to determine if any kind of assault would be possible. Yet the fortunes of the city and history itself, rested with the decision of a prostitute, Rahab. Would she turn in the spies or would she assist them?