In the Book of Judges a great principle of government is presented, a principle which is also stated very clearly in the prophecy of Isaiah. All of the subsequent prophets simply bear out and apply this principle which has already been stated. The principle is this: There are three steps in the downfall of a nation. First of all, there is religious apostasy. The second step is moral awfulness. And the third step is political anarchy. These are the three steps by which nations pass off the stage of human history. That has always been the way it has moved. You see, the primary problem never was political anarchy. The primary problem never was moral awfulness. As bad as these are, the root problem goes back to religious or spiritual apostasy, a turning away from the living and true God.

The downfall of a nation begins in idolatry; it begins in turning away from the living and true God. We would like to think that idolatry has gone out of style, that no one today in this country is bowing down to an idol. That, of course, is not true. Many a man today is worshiping the almighty dollar. Many a man worships sex. Many a man worships pleasure. May I say to you, anything that you give yourself to, anything that takes all your time or energy, anything that takes all of you is what you worship. That, my friend, is your god, that is your idol, and that is what God condemns. God says that He is a jealous God. He says, “I made you. I created you. I have redeemed you. And I want you.” When a man turns his back on God, he is doing the worst thing any man can possibly do.

But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. (Habakkuk 2:20)

Personally, I believe this looks to the future when the Lord Jesus Christ will come to the earth. When He is in His temple down here, the whole earth will be silent before Him. All of the noise, all of the clamor, all of the protest, all of the confusion will disappear at that time. But it is also true that it applies to today. The reason we are having all these difficulties and problems down here is that, although He is yonder in heaven, although the Lord is in His temple, man does not bow before Him and recognize Him. It would be a wonderful thing if we could just have a week of silence. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in Washington, D.C., would keep his mouth shut for a week? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us preachers on radio would keep our mouths shut? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if everyone who is doing so much talking would just keep quiet and wait before almighty God?

Just like Habakkuk’s questions, the psalmist asks, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1). Why all the clamor? Why all the protest? Because they are far from God. Our problem today is a problem of man’s relationship to God. My friend, there is only one alternative, there is only one way out: “The just shall live by his faith” (Psalm 2:4).

—From Edited Messages on Habakkuk by J. Vernon McGee