(1) My child, if you come to be a subject to the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.
The sense is seen, as opposed to predestination, that we might come to serve the Lord. This author moves from Wisdom attaching herself to the faithful in the womb to an individual choice. It is essentially up to the person to answer the call, to pay attention to the drawing of the Spirit of God. In doing this, in serving the Lord, they will face testing of their own will.
(2) Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be erratic in time of calamity.
Throughout the Gospels, the call to be patient (Luke 12.26-27) is made, as well as the call to set one’s sights higher (Matthew 6.33) is made with the promise that those who rest higher will not be moved.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)
There is little doubt now as to the kind of political and cultural climate in which the authors of Sirach and the New Testament lived, one which was turned upside down. Pagan Rome was powerful, Israel over run, and the Jews split into many different factions. There is little wonder why the need to look higher than one’s situation was mentioned and cajoled for disciples.
(3) Cleave to him and forsake him not, that you may be honored at the end of your life.
The author commands us to cling to the Lord, and to not stand alone, having forsaken Him. In conjunction with the previous verse, we read of a plea to fasten our hearts to God alone, and not to forsake Him in the calamity.
(4) Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient.
(5) For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
Job (23.10) is present in our minds here, but we find in the first epistle from Peter a loud echo of the words in the preceding verses.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold– though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT)
Peter is clearly echoing the sapential wisdom found in Sirach.
(5a) In sickness and in poverty, have trust in him
Although it is familiar because the same idea is found in many wedding vows, Sirach is relating this in the same way as the to the idea that what ever the situation of the student, only God matters. Perhaps the author sees sickness and poverty as being set against the trying of gold, or as the fire of the furnace of humiliation. While we do not so much encounter it here, in the Psalms of Solomon (perhaps also in Wisdom) we find a battle between the Pharisees and their disposers set into literature as the battle between the Righteous and the Sinners. Perhaps the author of Sirach foresaw the days which were coming, when the Pharisees would be cast out of power and loose the wealth of power.
(6) Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.
The author strikes a balance between grace and freewill – follow the Lord, and He will save you to the uttermost part.