Jacob, whom GOD later renamed Israel, had 12 children. These 12 children and their descendants are known as the 12 tribes of Israel.
Reuben was the first child and was entitled to the birthright, which would have given Him and his descendants a double portion of the inheritance, as well as spiritual blessings. But Reuben forfeited the birthright by committing adultery with his stepmother. The birthright was given to Joseph.
When Jacob was about to die he called his 12 children around him. To Reuben he stated what he and his descendants might have been if they would have followed GOD with all their hearts. Jacob said, "Reuben, thou art my first born, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and of power." But then he ended with the truth, "unstable as water, thou shall not excel."
Reuben was weak, vacillating, easily persuaded for wrong. History has shown how true these words are. The tribe of Reuben never produced a judge or a prophet. But instead, some Reubenites named Dathan and Abiram tried to overtake the authority given to Moses. When the Israelites were about to enter the promised land, the tribe of Reuben requested land on the other side of the Jordan, near the Moabites. This resulted in their being among the first to be taken captive.
Even with this negative history, GOD is very merciful. When Moses was preparing to die he said a blessing over the tribe of Reuben, saying "let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few." How could this be?
How could a tribe that was as unstable as water, that should not excel, receive such a blessing. That is the amazing power of GOD's transforming love. GOD can take something bad and make it good if we have a willing heart. That was what happened to the tribe of Reuben under the leadership of the prophet Deborah, a mother in Israel. During the Battle of Megiddo the Bible states that among "the divisions of Reuben there was a great searching of heart." If your life has been unstable, allow GOD to search your heart and change your character.
Picture originally found here