ralph-waldo-emerson-editedjpg“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

I love Psalm 1. There’s no particular reason other than the fact that it is wise counsel for how to live life well, and a great reminder that how we live life, and who we do life with, shapes our character. You’ve probably heard the saying that is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (who preferred to be called Waldo), “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” It brings to mind what Scripture says, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 16:25

Ironically, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s life, was one like many who have found themselves disillusioned by trials, and walked, stood, and sat with those whose counsel was unwise and ways were ungodly. I say ironically because Mr. Emerson was a pastor at the Old Second Church in his native city of Boston, until just after his 19-year-old wife’s death from tuberculosis. He had found it impossible to participate in and serve the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper following her passing. In 1831, at the young age of 28, he resigned. The following year he traveled to Europe and met Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish-born writer who attacked materialism, had a distrust of democracy, and a high view of the power of the individual. Carlyle had a significant impact on Emerson, and as a result shaped Emerson’s thinking as a transcendentalist to the point that his motto became, “Trust thyself.” As a matter of fact, his address “The Divinity School Address,” which he delivered before the graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, shocked Boston’s conservative clergymen, elevating man’s divinity, and the humanity of Jesus.

It doesn’t take much, or take long, for false doctrine to establish roots in the heart of a person who walks in the counsel of the ungodly. And from false doctrine, comes unwise decisions. What would have happened, I wonder, if Ralph Waldo Emerson had delighted in the Word of God in the midst of his sorrow and questioning? I wonder what would have happened if Waldo had surrounded himself with those who could care for his heart in a way that pointed him to Jesus? What if, during the most difficult moments of his life following his wife’s passing, he had walked with the godly through his valley of the shadow of death? What if he had followers of Jesus stand with him during his moments of struggle? And what if he had close, godly friends who took time to sit down with him to hear his doubts and point him to a Savior who is all-sufficient, and who offers gospel hope? It could very well be that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s story might have tracked in a different direction.

Where are you in the story of Psalm 1? Who are you walking with, and what is the counsel they are giving you? Who are you standing with, and do they stand on biblical truth? Who are you sitting down and doing life with? The truth is this: When you disregard God’s instruction and delight in the world’s ways and counsel, it wrongly influences how you think and feel about God, others, and life. But when you delight in God’s instruction, it rightly influences how you think and feel about God, others, and life.


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