The Jewish nation is unique among all others in that they were specially chosen by God. This privilege also made them the custodians of God’s word:
What advantage then has the Jew…Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2)
God made promises to the fathers of the Jewish nation, beginning with Abraham to whom He said: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18)
The Jewish people learned through God’s word to look for Abraham’s descendant: the “seed”, who would come to them bringing promised blessing. They sometimes referred to this person as the Messiah (Hebrew word), or the Christ (Greek word) (John 1:41). In addition to being Abraham’s descendant, God announced the Christ would be the son of David – meaning He would be born into the Jewish royal family (Isaiah 9:6-7).
But I want to turn your focus to the remarkable prediction of the town in which Christ would be born. When Jesus was born (into the Jewish royal line, note!), King Herod took the news of a potential rival so seriously that he made plans to execute Him while still an infant. He called for the Jewish religious leaders, to find out the name of the town in which they expected their Christ to be born. Without objecting to his request as strange, they replied: “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:5-6)
They were quoting Micah’s approximately 700 year old prophecy (Micah 5:2). They believed it, and Herod believed it too – as shown by his later slaughter of all infants under 2 years old in that town, in the hope of eliminating a rival king.
Because Jesus was born in Bethlehem He fulfils one of the most basic criteria (acknowledged by the Jews themselves) required of the Christ (Matthew 2:1). But there is more – Luke gives extra detail, showing that the town in which Jesus was born was not manipulated by Mary His mother: the reason she and Joseph were in Bethlehem at the time of His birth was that Augustus Caesar, the Roman emperor, had issued a decree requiring all people to go to their birth town for a census. Unless this had happened Jesus would have been born in Galilee (Luke 2:4). God brings His word to pass with style!