David sinned the great sin of his life. The thing that David had done displeased the LORD. But the LORD waited six months, more or less, before sending Nathan to David, for Bathsheba bore the child before the LORD sent Nathan to David.
Why did the LORD wait so long? I believe from the first to the last, David’s heart smote him. Previously, he couldn’t even cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak without his heart smoting him. But it may be, as sometimes happens as we get older, our hearts start to get a little hardened, and we don’t feel these things as keenly as we do when our heart is soft. And so David went on and ignored his conscience, while God was working with him, to get him to acknowledge his sin and repent of it.
When it finally came to pass that David would not repent, then the LORD sent Nathan to David, and exposed his sin. The LORD does not delight in publicly humiliating someone famous when they sin. I believe He does give them time to repent before the thing becomes known (I am thinking of Ted Haggard here, who used to be senior pastor of New Life Church, who was involved in a very public scandal a few years back). But if they will not repent, in the grand scheme of things, it is more important for the sin to be repented of, so that person can be cleansed and restored in his relationship with God, than it is for it to remain hidden forever. And so the LORD sent Nathan to David.
Now both the sin of adultery, and murder, carry with it the death penalty in Torah. So why did God just forgive David and he got off scott- free? First of all, no one knew that a sin of murder had been committed. Everyone thought that Uriah had just died as a consequence of the war. So there was no investigation and no reason for judgment to be brought. It was the same with the adultery. There was no husband to bring a charge against his wife, and the only people who knew what had happened were David and Bathsheba, and they weren’t talking.
But the LORD knew; He brought the sin to light, and actually, David as king, pronounced his own judgment upon himself. He said that the man who did this thing deserved death, and that he would pay fourfold for the death of the lamb. The LORD added to it by saying that the sword would not depart from David’s house. So four deaths are decreed. The first was the infant that Bathsheba bore.
Now this whole incident is preaching the gospel of grace from the Old Testament, for even the man after God’s own heart committed sin and was in need of a Savior. Even the man after God’s own heart, who had the Spirit of God, deserved death for his violations of Torah. But who died? David, the sinner? No, but the Son of David died in his place.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised! His mercy endures forever!