I hadn’t thought of the old Morse Code Signal in years, but last year, a writer, Lisa Samra, for the Daily Bread devotional book mentioned it.  She stated: “S.O.S. is the Morse code signal, was created in 1905 because sailors needed a way to indicate extreme distress. This signal gained notoriety in 1910 when used by the sinking ship Steamship Kentucky saving all forty-six people aboard.”  She made an excellent use of that to challenge us to send out an “SOS” to God in the midst of a challenging situation.

I wondered what happened to that signal, since I hadn’t heard of it lately. I checked the internet and learned that “This distress signal was first adopted by the German government radio regulations effective 1 April 1905, and became the worldwide standard under the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention, which was signed on 3 November 1906, and became effective on 1 July 1908. SOS remained the maritime radio distress signal until 1999, when it was replaced by the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.”

I was startled to learn that the code “S.O.S.” was first adopted by the German government. I thought the United States had come up with it in WWII in sea battles against Germany.  I had heard that the distress signal is an abbreviation for “save our ship.” In popular usage, SOS became associated with such phrases as "Save our Souls" and "Save our Ship". But in reality, those terms are called backronyms, which means the letters don't actually stand for anything. In fact, the signal isn't even really supposed to be three individual letters. I wondered what happened to “S.O.S.”, but also the internet answered that: “In 1999, Morse code was declared all but dead. Because today, a ship can signal distress with the touch of a button, the lift of a phone, the launch of a rocket, or — if they’re feeling nostalgic — flashing a good ol’ SOS via light signals across the waves. Remember it fondly, and then rather than remember that and then get busy memorizing the codes connected to the more current devices that could save their life.”

Reading the information about SOS, I suddenly felt VERY OLD.

Lisa Samra made a point in her article that we could send out an SOS to God.  I agree with that, but in reality, our SOS to God is in the form of a prayer, either aloud, or privately. With an SOS signal, the signal may be intercepted by the enemy and bring disaster rather than help.  Also, the ships often would send out the SOS with no assurance that they would receive the needed help.  With our “SOS” (Prayer), it will always be received by the one intended, God, and His relief will be provided.

Also, we know that the “SOS” distress was eliminated by more modern inventions.  However, with our “SOS” (Prayers) have never and will never be eliminated.  Also, the SOS signal was not sent out continually - only in known danger.  We are told in I THESS. 5:14, “Pray without ceasing.” A SOS signal had to be certain, but we are told when we are unable put it in words, we may be uncertain, but God is never uncertain. He still hears and answers (MATTHEW 6:8).

Jesse R. Spurlock

Pastor Emeritus,

Highland Park Baptist Church